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July 9, 2014
Light for My Path
Why Gratitude, Part II
by Kathryn Grant

Most people would agree that it's easy to be grateful when things are going well. (That isn't to say that we always are grateful in good times, but our lack of gratitude is not because it's hard.)

And there are times when we go through challenges that, while difficult, are clearly benefitting us in substantial ways -- things like getting a degree or preparing for a marathon. In those circumstances, even with the difficulties, we can see the good and feel gratitude.

But what about situations from which it appears no possible good can come? Things that are beyond unfair and seem hopeless of any acceptable resolution? Things that alter the very course of our lives and take us in directions we never wanted to go?

Was Paul really including such things when he encouraged the Ephesians to "[give] thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"? (Ephesians 5:20 emphasis added.)

Our first reaction to such a thought may be outright and angry rejection. Yet some who have endured the unthinkable would concur with Paul. Why?

Entire books have been written to explore this question, but ultimately the answer lies in God's sovereign power and in the atonement of Jesus Christ -- the greatest manifestation of God's love.

The secret of gratitude in the darkest of times is that God does not let anything happen to us unless it is ultimately for our greatest good, through the power of the Savior's redemption.

This may be a hard saying, but it isn't empty or foolishly optimistic. In her book Something More, Catherine Marshall refers to God as the "Divine Alchemist," because of His miraculous ability to take the worst rubbish life offers and transform it into gold for us (cf Isaiah 61:3.

Likewise, Lehi taught his son Jacob that the Lord would "consecrate [his] afflictions for [his] gain." (2 Nephi 2:2.) And Paul reminds us that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28, emphasis added; cf D&C 90:24.)

After Jeff Olsen survived the horrific accident that killed his wife and son and left him an amputee, he spent months trying to rebuild his life physically and emotionally. One night he had a particularly real and sacred dream.

He found himself in a place of surpassing beauty and peace where he became aware of the presence of his Heavenly Father. He felt God's overwhelming love and wisdom surrounding him. Jeff shared what he felt and learned in these words:

I saw purpose in every event of my entire life. I saw how every circumstance had been divinely provided for my learning and development.... Everything that had ever happened to me had been a loving step in that process of my progression.... I felt so loved, so cherished, so honored.... I knew there was a master plan far greater than my limited earthly vision. (I Knew Their Hearts.)

Elder Richard G. Scott put it this way: "[God] loves you to a depth and completeness you cannot conceive of in your mortal state. Indeed, were you to know His entire plan, you would never ask for that which is contrary to it even though your feelings tempt you to do so. " ("The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing," April 2003 General Conference.)

Sometimes when I've felt overwhelmed by the suffering in some mortal lives, a quiet reminder has come to me of the Redeemer of all, of whom it was written, "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him," and "with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:10, 5. God did not spare His Only Begotten Son the worst of all possible trials, and yet it was for the greatest of all glory and good: the redemption of God's children.

When I think of all the Savior endured for this greatest good, isn't it possible that our most difficult trials could also result in the greatest good for us, even if we can't fathom it now? Gratitude during the darkest times is perhaps the supreme expression of humility, and of faith in God, His power, and His plan for us. And ultimately, it may be a major factor enabling us to endure those trials.

We don't have to expect perfect gratitude in our trials all at once. We can start with small things, and we can be patient with ourselves as we increase in our faith and humility, enabling us to become more and more grateful.

And we don't have to expect perfect understanding either -- in fact, the reasons for some trials may not be known quickly or even until the next life. But in the meantime, it's enough to know that God knows the reasons, and that in our most grievous trials and afflictions we have access to the redeeming and enabling power of the atonement.

We can say with Lehi, "But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. (2 Nephi 2:24).

There's no better reason to be grateful.

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