More Gratitude Give Me
Receiving "all things" with thankfulness
The severe pain in my lower back had been a constant companion for over a month. I had herniated a disc in my spine (L5, S1 for all you back surgeons out there) while trying to help a neighbor move several large pieces of plywood and now had to wait until an opening in my doctor’s schedule to receive a microdiscectomy. This would involve shaving off the tiny thorn-shaped piece of bone that was protruding into my spinal cord and bringing all that incessant pain. I barely slept. Sitting was impossible. I felt constant shooting pains down my left leg and most of my toes on that foot were going numb.
After my doctor explained the possible risks from surgery (I think paralysis was mentioned ) I only had one question: If it worked, would the pain stop? “That’s the hope, of course,” she responded. “Then let’s do it,” I said. When she told me it would be several weeks before the procedure could be done, I may have cried a little. No doubt I cried many times during those long days and longer nights of waiting for the day (some of those nights were almost unbearable) when the surgery would finally happen.
On that early morning, after the usual surgical prep, I was put under and my doctor successfully repaired the injury. I still have a vivid memory of waking in the hospital recovery room. There were two or three other patients also recovering. As my eyes slowly opened, I immediately sensed something was different. Even though I could feel the pain of the operation, the hope-numbing pain I had felt for over a month was miraculously gone. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more grateful than I was at that moment. I quietly wept and offered a dry-mouthed, whispered prayer of gratitude.
In the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord teaches something about gratitude that I find both inspiring and sometimes frightening.
78:19 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
“All things with thankfulness”? Like…everything? The day I lost that job? That moment I wasn’t picked to be on the team I’d worked so hard to be chosen for? And what about the ache of infertility, the heartbreak over the loss of a loved one, or the sting of betrayal by someone I trusted? You’re telling me to receive those terrible moments, and countless others like them, with gratitude?
As I have been reminded many times since my back surgery—which in comparison to the suffering, abuse, and untreatable illnesses that so many experience—hardly registers on the very-painful-thing scale, there is a humility and reverence that pain can bring to us if we’re open to the gift. I also believe that this type of unconditional thankfulness is closely tied to our level of trust in God and His purposes. Meaning, if we believe Nephi when he teaches that the Savior “doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him” (2 Nephi 26:24) we’ll include in our prayers sincere gratitude even for our worst moments, our heartbreaks, and our pain, whether temporary or unending.
But if I’m not there yet, is that okay? Can I be thankful and terrified at the same time?
Just this past week, there was an article and video published about Sister Jennie Taylor, whose husband was killed in action several years ago while serving in Afghanistan. When I saw the title—Life is Incredibly Unfair - In Our Favor” I immediately thought I should include it in this post.
Sister Taylor was inspired by a message shared recently by Elder Dale G. Renlund, Infuriating Unfairness. What a title, right? As I read the Church News article, I was reminded of this statement Elder Renlund made that fits perfectly with this idea of being grateful for the worst things that might ever happen to us.
If we let Him, Jesus Christ will consecrate the unfairness for our gain. He will not just console us and restore what was lost; He will use the unfairness for our benefit.
In her new book about stewardship, author Ganel-Lyn Condie shares a powerful insight about the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. I know when I’ve read that parable I’ve sometimes had two different thoughts: First, why didn’t the “slothful” servant make any attempt to improve the talent he was given, and second, his punishment seems way out of proportion to his sin. Maybe you’ve thought the same thing? Here’s what Condie shared in her book and elsewhere that has changed my perspective.
Maybe the servant that received the one talent received a stewardship that was embarrassing or hard. It’s everything you own. It’s your health. It’s your dog. It’s your unemployment. It’s your divorce. It’s your kids. It’s your infertility. It’s your LGBTQ+ friend. It’s your demotion or your promotion. It’s everything in our lives. So, as I comb through the scriptures and ask the Lord to kind of show me where He had taught it, that’s where I saw that maybe the servant had received a ‘stewardship’, but it wasn’t a fun one. It’s not the one that everyone’s giving an award for or cheering you on about. It’s the one that feels private or personal or frustrating.
So, receiving “all things” with thankfulness may be one of the deepest expressions of love we can show to our Savior. A good thing. But also a hard one. Harder still—not shrinking when the unwelcome call comes to enter our own Gethsemane while remembering that, unlike Him, we won’t suffer alone in our darkest of nights.
But I can’t leave out the best part! With any commandment He gives, the Lord also includes a promised blessing. In this case, TWO blessings. And they are almost incomprehensible in wonder and scope.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
We’ll be made glorious. What does that even mean? Do I even need to know? If it includes becoming even a little bit more like Him, and just a little bit closer, sign me up.
But there’s more. He also promises that the things of this earth will be added to us “an hundred fold, yea, more.” Wow. Who says “no” to that gift?
At this season of counting our blessings, it sounds like being thankful for blessings in disguise is something to consider. Heaven loves a grateful heart.
I wish you joy and abundance, but also strength to endure present or future storms. I know this much…you won’t walk alone.
(P.S. I can’t not share this reminder from one of the most Christlike people on earth!)
Have you ever heard a prophet pray for you?
If not, here’s your chance. In the spirit of my thoughts about gratitude, here is a very touching message about how gratitude can heal spiritual wounds and bring much-needed peace.
Up next in The Bright & Morning Star
Next week, in the spirit of the Christmas season, I’ll be sharing something a little different than what I’ve published so far: Several of my favorite quotes and teachings about the Savior. I hope they will strengthen your faith as they have strengthened mine.
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