In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m running an article I wrote a couple of years ago ….
I hope I just had an epiphany.
You know, one of those moments of crystal clear clarity when truths fall into place and change how you see and react with the world forever.
They haven’t happened very often, but when they have, they’ve changed the course of my existence:
As a teenager kneeling in prayer, sure that Heavenly Father knows me personally and cares what happens to me,
At 18, deciding that my mother was smarter than I’d ever realized,
Sitting in a movie theater, holding hands, suddenly ready to marry him for eternity,
Holding my first child, the sudden connection hitting me like a ton of bricks,
Reading a popular novel and realizing, I could do that—I could write a novel.
You see, recently I’ve had a moment of clarity when a truth becomes clearer. I just hope it changes how I react with the world for the rest of my life.
Here’s my truth—It is easy to be grateful for your blessings (although we sometimes still forget to express that gratitude). But there’s a power that comes from being grateful for your challenges that far surpasses the normal strength of gratitude.
Gratitude is a commandment. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (Doctrine & Covenants 59:7.) But the Lord doesn’t differentiate between gratitude for our blessings and gratitude for our challenges. Both kinds of gratitude are expected of us.
My challenge that prompted my epiphany wasn’t nearly as difficult as a trial that Elder Robert D. Hales relates:
“… I had an experience that took me to the very edge of this mortal existence. As many of you know, I suffered a heart attack…. Throughout that experience, there is one particular feeling that began inside of me, almost immediately, that intensified as time went on and became overpowering during my illness, during my recovery, and remains with me still. I became overwhelmed with a feeling of deep gratitude for the goodness of God.” (Ensign, May 1992)
He goes on to explain the very lesson I’m learning by my own experience.
“In some quiet way, the expression and feelings of gratitude have a wonderful cleansing or healing nature…. Gratitude expressed to our Heavenly Father in prayer for what we have brings a calming peace—a peace which allows us to not canker our souls for what we don’t have. Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure. Gratitude on a daily basis means we express appreciation for what we have now without qualification for what we had in the past or desire in the future. A recognition of and appreciation for our gifts and talents which have been given also allows us to acknowledge the need for help and assistance from the gifts and talents possessed by others.” (Ensign, May 1992)
In 2011, my husband was laid off for eight months after 33 years of steady employment. In trying to help him keep an eternal perspective I latched on to gratitude as a means to keep our family from being discouraged. An attitude of gratitude brought a peace, assurance, and fun that I never expected. Looking back at the experience, I now understand what Heavenly Father had planned for us. I can see now that complaining and moaning about an experience that was really intended to be a blessing for us would have been petty.
How can we be grateful for our illness or suffering or pain? By remembering a few simple lessons:
First, blessings are often guarded by challenges. Sometimes you have to lose a job before Heavenly Father can provide a better opportunity.
Second, with every challenge comes heavenly help. Heavenly Father opens doors, guides decisions, and often puts people in our way to help us.
Third, with challenges come lessons learned. Unemployment teaches humility, patience, practicality and even brings epiphanies.
Fourth, if Heavenly Father will bring you to a challenge, he will bring you through that challenge. The challenge will end eventually.
So the truth is clearer—gratitude for our challenges gives us a power to overcome those challenges. But that inspiration won’t become an epiphany until it changes how I react with the world for the rest of my life—until I meet every challenge in the future with gratitude.