With Covid 19 restricting our life and our physical movements, this year’s Thanksgiving for many will be a ‘Limited/Virtual Thanksgiving.’ Thanksgiving, in a non-Covid 19 world is a beautiful occasion when people participate in religious services to thank God for their blessings and also gather as a family to come together in a spirit of gratitude and love. This year our emotions and thoughts are much more somber and there is a sense of gloom and doom in the air. In spite of Covid 19, we are still called to be grateful to God, to our family, and friends.
Normally we tend to identify blessings with things and situations that have played out to our expectations. Acceptance of life in its totality implies that everything that happens in our life is a blessing, and everything includes not just the bright and the positive outcome of things but even our adversities, setbacks, failures, losses, health issues, problems, pain, suffering, sorrow. These are also blessings in as much as they offer opportunities for spiritual and psychological growth. For a spiritual person, everything in life is a spiritual teacher that has the potency to bring us closer to God and to live a holistic life.
Today, as we express our gratitude to God and others, let our spirit of gratitude include everything that has happened in our life, even the most painful and sorrowful things. What brings tremendous sorrow in our life also contains within it seeds of transformative joy. It was Siddartha’s encounter with pain and suffering that gave birth to Buddhism; it was through years of wandering in the desert that Moses became a leader; it was the through the painful death of Jesus on the cross that we were healed. The martyrdom of early Christians was a powerful witness to the joy of life in Christ… In this context, I find the words of Jalaluddin Rumi and Khalil Gibran very inspiring:
Whenever sorrow comes, be kind to it. For God has placed a pearl in sorrow’s hand.
What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.
Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.
Don’t forget, the heaviest rain comes out of the darkest clouds.
Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.
The wound is the place where the light enters you.
Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.
I saw Grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “it tastes sweet, does it not?” “You have caught me,” Grief answered, “and have ruined my business. How can I sell sorrow when you know it is a blessing?”
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater." But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Everything that has happened in our life is a source of blessing. When unpleasant events occur, they are painful to deal with and leave us with more questions than answers, but do not forget those very events and situations have the power to transform us to be the best versions of ourselves. It depends on our perspective. Let us raise our hearts in gratitude:
for the unanswered prayers
for the unfulfilled dreams of my childhood
for my present walk of life that was chosen by others
for letting others choose my studies, my career
for the chronic illness that never seems to leave me
for moments of physical, mental, emotional pain, and suffering
for spiritual darkness and the dark night of the soul
for the indifference of family and friends
for the betrayals, hurts, broken relationships
for all the regrets, shame, and guilt
for all the ‘wrong’ choices and decisions that I have made
for refusal to be forgiven
for the all the rejections at job interviews
for my past addictions
for the birth of my child with special needs
for passing through the different seasons of life
for all my financial losses
Tragedies, failures, losses, heartaches, pain, and sorrow are also paths that can become our spiritual teachers opening up new possibilities to come closer to God and to discover ourselves. Good Friday contained within itself the Easter Sunday. Out of our own woundedness we become healers. Everything that has happened in our life has a purpose. There is nothing to be ashamed of; there is only gratitude.