How often have you looked back on your life with a different perspective than the one you had during the midst of a specific memory? Maybe the pain from a terrible event has subdued with time. Maybe the resentment you once carried is no longer there and you gained the ability to see the other person’s perspective – which now allows you to extend grace. Time is a beautiful gift, isn’t it?
Some horrific events, surely are an exception. Anyone who has lost a loved one could attest to this. I suspect you never get to a point in life where that memory doesn’t hurt and your heart no longer aches with longing. Even though grieving changes with time, nobody ever gets to a place of gratitude for the loved one they lost. I would never insinuate that because that would be foolish.
However, with respect to the loss of loved ones, I have found very few – if any – memories in life I don’t look back on and appreciate it. It doesn’t mean at the beginning of my life I would’ve ever intentionally planned those painful moments in my story. It doesn’t mean I would do it over. It doesn’t mean I would wish it on another. It just means I embraced what happened, chose healing, learned from the experience and moved forward. Hopefully, with a little more wisdom and a whole lot more grace.
It’s the job you were laid off from. It was devastating. Maybe it forced you to file bankruptcy or almost caused your marriage to collapse. But maybe, just maybe, it eventually led you to part ways with your old friend Fear and drove you right into the arms of your calling. That thing you would’ve otherwise kept on the back burner – afraid to let go of the security you thought your previous job provided.
It’s your broken family. Growing up with home nearly equivalent to a war zone. Mom and Dad were always yelling and breaking things. They were too distracted to pay mind to your suffering. You didn’t have a normal childhood where security and provision were part of the package deal. You raised yourself and had to grow up too soon. It was extremely painful. But with time, maybe now you can appreciate the lesson gleaned from that. Maybe you figured out your standards for raising a family and it fueled your desire to create health for your own children.
It’s the mean girls who tainted your view on friendship. But from them, you learned to be a world-class friend.
It’s the depression that’s eaten away too many of your days as you’ve sat there watching life pass by. You knew there was more for you but couldn’t seem to willpower yourself past the gloom to get it. But from that, you have developed such a sensitivity for others. You offer the waiter more grace when he messes up your order. You aren’t quick to snap at the clerk who has an awful attitude. You realize we all are fighting our own battles. Because of how much you have suffered, your heart has been softened and attuned to the emotions of others.
It’s the time you were raped. Trapped against your will and treated with the same empathy as toddlers have for ants on the sidewalk. You wondered if you were going to live or if this was how it was going to end for you. After that, it took years to rebuild your self-worth and learn how to trust again. You never wanted this. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But it happened and you pursued healing. Now you are an advocate for others. It ignited passion in your soul to be a champion of the oppressed and protector of the exploited.
It’s the memory of your dad packing his things and leaving you and mom behind. As excruciating as that was, it taught you what kind of dad you want to be to your family. It made you truly value loyalty and dedication.
It’s the cancer that almost took your life. It robbed you of seeing your son’s championship baseball game or attending your daughter’s wedding. It cost your family greatly as you grieved the possibility that your time with them was coming to an end. But you didn’t give up. You never stopped fighting. You pushed through the heartbreak and body aches and came out a survivor. Now, maybe you are a spokesperson who travels the world and educates others on the impacts of cancer and how they can get involved to find a cure.
It’s your childhood of being bullied. You went home every night and cried yourself to sleep, wondering what you did to deserve being treated so horrendously. What is wrong with you – you questioned – that would cause people to derive such pleasure from your pain? Maybe sometimes it still haunts you. But from that experience, you learned depths of compassion you didn’t know existed. You became a teacher to look out for the underdog and to cultivate an atmosphere of empathy and consideration for others within the education system.
It was your trip to the psychiatric hospital. A failed attempt at suicide left you feeling like you were back in infancy as nurses and doctors invaded your privacy and crouched in on your dignity. They prodded, trying to figure out what is ‘wrong’ with you. It was opening up in the circle and sharing your innermost feelings with the others… a decision you wouldn’t have made had you not been prompted. It was integrating back into ‘normal’ life; with your parents hovering and your friends adding to your disgrace as they monitored you and treated you like a broken toy. It was agonizing. It was humiliating. It was frustrating. But now you have an opportunity to influence others who are contemplating ending it all. You can reach them at a depth no one else can. From your suffering, maybe dozens of lives have been saved as your words have helped them reconsider.
It’s your failed marriage. Adding that to your relationship resume is less than ideal. It makes you feel insecure and inferior as you get back out there in the dating game. But from it, you learned so clearly who are are and what you have to offer. You will no longer settle for less than you deserve. That elevated perspective raised your sights and standards up to meet the gaze of your current spouse. The one who doesn’t abuse you or take you for granted. The one who is equally committed to pushing through the hard times and making things work. Now, you no longer feel like you’re in a one-sided relationship.
We all have our own journey and have all suffered in more than one way.
With time, healing and perspective, those points of pain can become our greatest ministry. They can soften our rough edges (if we allow them) and create in us more wisdom and more empathy for others.
It doesn’t mean what happened to you is okay. It doesn’t mean it was worth it for the lesson learned. It doesn’t mean the person who treated you so unjustly was right or shouldn’t be held accountable. It doesn’t mean you would have chosen that path for yourself or would ever wish it on another.
Being grateful for the hard times simply means we accepted that it happened, allowed it to teach us what it needed to and we moved forward with grace.