Defiant Gratitude

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to The Lord.
Let us give thanks to The Lord our God.
It is right and just.

We hear each week in the Eucharistic Prayer that it is our duty, always and everywhere, to give God our thanks and praise. We are to bring forward our grateful hearts as an offering of thanksgiving. There are times when this is so natural, those periods of life when praise and thanksgiving seen to pour from our hearts and flow from our lips in an easy stream. Thank you, God.

But what about those other times in life? Those periods of loss or suffering or pain? The times when we struggle to even show up to Mass or to get out of bed in the morning or to make ourselves pray anything other than “Lord, have mercy”?

Even in those times, we are called to give God our gratitude.

It is no small feat to be grateful when you have just lost a child, or when you are grieving the death of a spouse or parent. It is nothing little to rejoice and thank God when a cancer diagnosis is made or when it reappears. It hurts to praise God when the things dearest to us—our health, our homes, our families—are lost.

Tragic circumstances can make it feel impossible to thank God.

But Jesus is Lord over our tragedies, too.

The church proclaims on the final Sunday of the liturgical year that Christ is King over all things. Christ is King of the universe—the planets, the stars and galaxies, the spaces between them…even the black holes, those places in space that are devouring themselves, where gravity sucks everything into the collapsing center from which even light cannot escape. Places of pure and utter darkness.

Sometimes our suffering feels like that.

But Jesus is Lord, still. Lord over the black holes. And when it seems to be darkest, the defiant act of acknowledging Jesus as King is a form of gratitude.

We are entering the darkest time of the year, when our days grow shorter and our nights longer. From this dark place, we sit and wait for the light to come back. We mark the weeks, lighting a candle to count each one as it passes, yearning for the Light, willing it to arrive.

defiant gratitude advent wreath

It can feel especially dark if you are hurting this time of year. As stores throw up their displays and neighbors’ yards glow with colored lights and commercials command us to “be merry,” we can feel especially alone. How can we join in the celebration when our hearts feel too heavy to move?

Sometimes, sitting in the dark is our act of thanksgiving. Sometimes, sitting in the dark and confessing Jesus as Lord of all of it, even the worst parts, is revolutionary. In the dark, surrounded by our fears and worries, we are waiting for the One who can make us whole again.

Without the bright, sparkly distractions of the commercial holiday season, we are in the place where we can most easily see the first flicker of the approaching Light.

And, in spite of our pain, in spite of being unable to see anything but the darkness pressing us on all sides, we can thank God. We can always thank God, because no matter how dark it is today, the Light is always coming.

defiant gratitude quote

Copyright 2013 Abbey Dupuy

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