The other night during my Holy Hour, I was reflecting on my life over the past 6 months, and I felt God calling me to really look at everything I am grateful for. As Christians, we always have so much to be grateful for, since we have all been given the gift of faith and the assurance of God’s love and mercy. But even though we possess such treasures, it is still so easy to lose sight of our blessings when in the midst of trials and spiritual darkness. Intellectually, we might know how incredibly blessed we are, but feeling that sense of gratitude and exercising that virtue in the midst of one trial after another can be really challenging. This has definitely been a struggle for me over the past few months. Many times, unfortunately, our gratitude to God is conditional, based on how great life is going for us, but the true test of gratitude, is when we can practice it even in the moments when it’s hardest to feel and see.
As I sat with Jesus and wrote down a list of everything that my struggles have taught me, it was as if something was finally released in me. I cried as I wrote down how my struggles have blessed me, and I finally felt like Jesus was slowly moving my heart to a place of gratitude. I was seeing through the lens of gratefulness and it brought such clarity to my soul. It was as if Jesus was telling me, “Finally my child, you have turned your gaze from all that you’ve thought was taken from you, and you see now what I have actually given you through all of this.” I read my list to my husband and he smiled, knowing what an act of the will it took me to write all of that. I have slowly, slowly been moving to this place of gratitude lately, but it has been a journey that has taken me longer than I hoped.
I have written about my struggles and the raw emotion that I’ve felt over the past few months in my last two blogs. Now I want to share about the good, and the hope, that I’ve also been given through all this. Out of all darkness comes Christ’s light, and I have been in awe at how God has showed up for me time and time again, working through friends, priests and random strangers to remind me that He is ever present with me.
“Nothing is Impossible for God”
Just yesterday I was walking through the grocery store on my lunch break trying to figure out what I was going to make for dinner. As I was walking down the aisle, mentally checking things off my list, a lady who was pushing her cart right past me, all of a sudden stopped right next to me, looked at me and said “God healed me of terminal cancer, nothing is impossible for God.” I was completely caught off guard and it took me a minute to process (“Did she just blurt that out to me?”). I told her, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I have been fighting chronic infections for the past 6 months and I really needed to hear that.” She took my arm and said, “Speak out the healing stories in the Gospels and claim the healing that Jesus wants to give you.” I asked her what her name was and she said, “Mary.” Then she gave me a big hug, told me she’d be praying for me and walked away. The Holy Spirit was reminding me through this woman, that God can do all things. It was a beautiful, unexpected encounter in the middle of a grocery store.
A Kiss from St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)
I have a deep love for St. Teresa of Calcutta. In college I read multiple books on her life and spent two weeks in Calcutta working with her sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, in the summer of 2015. Her humble faith and pure love for Jesus, even in the midst of her own darkness, has inspired me for years. A few months ago I was at my parents’ house visiting them, when I received a text message from my friend asking me to come over. He said Fr. Matthew, a priest I knew, wanted to speak with me. I had no idea what was going on and I didn’t know Fr. Matthew very well, but I went over to see what he wanted. We sat there talking about how I was doing, as Father had known about my health and infertility problems from my friend. Fr. Matthew is from India and had met St. Teresa while he worked in Calcutta for a short period of time when he was newly ordained. He said that a few weeks ago he had lunch with a fellow priest who was a close friend to St. Teresa and worked with her for over 15 years. Fr. Matthew had asked his friend if he had anything special from St. Teresa that he could give to him. Pulling out a miraculous medal from his pocket, Fr. Matthew handed it to me and said, “This medal was kissed by Mother Teresa.” I started to cry. He said I was the first person that came to his heart and he felt like he needed to give it to me. I felt totally and completely held and loved by God the Father in that moment.
I had never had a conversation with Fr. Matthew about my life, my struggles or my love for St. Teresa, but God worked through Fr. Matthew to remind me of His love for me. As I was driving home that night, in awe of how God had blessed me, I remembered a quote from St. Teresa: “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” I smiled because I had just received a kiss from St. Teresa and Jesus. After I had shared the story with one of my best friends she said, “How beautiful that Mother Teresa, who suffered through so much darkness, came to you in the midst of your own darkness.” After years of loving her and praying for her intercession, St. Teresa was reminding me that she was with me and she was in fact interceding for me. I wear that medal daily, and I carry deep gratitude in my heart for the love shown to me through Fr. Matthew, Our Lord and St. Teresa.
Being Grateful in Moments of Pain
We don’t have to wait until our struggles end in order to be grateful to God. After the tears, the frustration, the anger and grief we sometimes go through, we must turn our gaze beyond our pain and find any and every reason to be grateful. We must choose to see all the good and all the blessings that are still present in our lives. We can learn to see how God is working, even in the moments when it may feel like He is distant and detached from us. God is faithful and He walks beside us every step of the way, never abandoning us. He holds us when we suffer, He reminds us of His goodness when we need reminding, and He works through each of us to communicate a message of HOPE to one another when we need to be encouraged in our faith journey. As Job cried out when everything in his life was falling apart, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21) We are blessed not only in moments of joy, but also in moments of sorrow. We are blessed even when everything around us seems to be falling apart. We have a Father who loves us. This Thanksgiving and all the days to follow, I pray that I can remember to give praise to God always, especially in the dark valleys of my life.
Praying you all had a very blessed Thanksgiving! Blessed be God always, now and forever 🙂
2018 Drewe DeJesus
Photo by Gabrielle Cole from Freely Photos