Last Sunday I was asked to share some thoughts in a class about gratitude for trials. I immediately accepted this request because over the past few months I have learned that as I am prompted to think about particular issues surrounding the loss of James, I learn and grow. It seem obvious that I would want to grow from all of this, but it is ever so easy to slow to a stop and ignore and keep at bay how physically and emotionally painful it is to grow from hard things.
So as we drove early Sunday morning from spending Thanksgiving with our family I had a discussion with my husband about having gratitude for trials. This is what we came up with and what I shared with others later that day.
When I was 15 years-old, my grandmother died and I was so extremely heartbroken over it. I adored my grandmother. She is what every good and kind grandmother is made of, but she was also strict and taught me manners and social graces. I remember laying in my bed feeling like my life was awful and then I remember coming to the realization that my life wasn't really all that bad. I had a roof over my head, food to eat, I could go buy new clothes from the store and I was able to develop hobbies that cost my parents money. I wondered why I had been given such an easy life compared to those I knew who suffered in broken homes, those who had little to eat or were faced with abuse on a daily basis. Then I realized that everyone at some point had something bad happen in their lives; my grandmother passed away after her second round of having a brain tumor and I knew in that moment that someday I would face a trial that would be so indescribably hard.
When I had a miscarriage before Max was born I fell into a depression and I thought, this must be it. This is awful. Then my parents got divorced and it was messy and ugly and everything everyone dreads. Those happened at the same time and surely, I thought in my naivete, that this must be my trail.
Then James' heart stopped beating while inside of me. Where I thought he was safe. I knew then that this would become a defining trial in my life. Perhaps I may have more, but for now this is one that breaks my heart on a daily basis.
In the initial moments of realizing the life inside me had become permanently still, I realized I had two choices. One was to blame God, to wonder where He was, why didn't He protect my baby, my family, myself from this pain. The other choice was to turn to Him immediately, to seek out His hand a midst the pain and know that through Him is the only way that I could feel as if I could be happy again. Turning from God looked a dark, bleak, and hopeless path. Turning towards Him, I felt peace, I felt His love, I felt blessed. Truly.
I haven't always wanted to happy after James died. At times I thought, What is the point? I will forever be miserable so why even TRY being happy? But then I would see Him trying to reach out to me, through the actions of others, through small seemingly trivial coincidences, through reading the scriptures and reading words that were so needed in the exact moment I needed them, through prayer and feeling such a sense of peace and love, and through the example of my husband and child who chose joy, especially when it was hard.
So I can stand each day and truly say that I have gratitude for this trial. Through it I have come to know my Heavenly Father and my Savior more personally. Through this trial I have felt the power of the Atonement. I have felt grace through the desire to not wallow in my misery but use it as fuel to become a better person, to become who Heavenly Father sees in me. The Atonement is not just to cleanse and heal, but ultimately the Atonement of our Savior, His great and magnificent and infinite sacrifice was so that we could be transformed through the pain of this world. That we would be given grace, divine help, to be lifted up when we needed it, when we felt like it wasn't possible to ever be happy again.
Today a favorite hymn of mine was sung, "Come Thou Fount," and in it is a line that I grasped recognizing Heavenly Father's hand leading and teaching me each day:
Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.
I am fixed, focused, upon the doctrine of a loving, kind Heavenly Father. That is where my focus is. Bad and terrible things happen in this world. That does not mean He isn't there and that He is distant or unloving. It means that He honors the ability for us to learn and grow through the trials and tribulations that this world has to offer. I know that He loves me, I do not understand this trial in my life completely, but I know that we are all given hard things to experience to lift us up to Him, to transform us and to prepare us for Heaven and all its glory.