Not acknowledging your own pain in light of someone else’s worse pain does not cultivate a heart of gratitude.
Last fall, I was hurting, but I noticed that there was always someone hurting more than I was. So I began to bury my pain inside, believing that my struggle was not valid compared to what others were going through.
I did a lot of people a disservice. Had I acknowledged that pain to the Lord and sought healing, I could have been part of the healing process of others. Instead, my own hurts handicapped me because I sunk them deeper and deeper into myself. On the surface, my pain gave way to resentment. It made it almost impossible to respond to others in need.
I stopped seeking out a place to share my pain because it wasn’t supposed to be real anyway. And I reminded myself over and over that I had so much to be grateful for.
What was I doing? I was comparing myself to others and saw them as more needy and thus more worthy of care and attention. And my hurts…what hurts? I don’t have any hurts!
When we compare ourselves to others, it can cultivate faux gratitude. “This relationship may be broken but at least I have a solid roof over my head, unlike those war torn refugees.”
Real gratitude comes after we acknowledge our pain and still find God bigger. And still find Him good.
Have you ever read the Psalms? The psalmists don’t pretend that everything is okay. Instead, they often pour out their hearts in startling honesty. But then they rest in God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and His love. They see their pain in light of God’s bigness and they are grateful.
I’m not sharing this piece of my journey with you because it’s pretty (it’s not) or because it’s eloquent (it is only notes jotted down on my phone); I’m sharing this because maybe you are here at this point with me where you feel like your pain isn’t worth God’s time of day, or anyone else’s, for that matter.
We can keep believing that if we would like, but life is so much richer when we seek healing. What does healing look like? I’m not an expert yet, but I know that sometimes it looks like confession, sometimes like forgiveness, and sometimes, it’s just acknowledging that the pain is real.
None of those options mean we magically stop feeling the hurt, but that we relinquish control of it and its control on us. And without the “at-least-I-don’t” comparisons that tell us we should be grateful, we find that we have tasted God’s goodness and we are truly grateful.