Grateful Even in Letting Go

For those of us in the States, today is Thanksgiving Day. Though its origin isn’t the cleanest story in our history, setting aside a day to remember God’s goodness despite human frailty is beautiful for all of us.

But how can you be grateful when your life is wrecked with pain or your year is full of loss?

Over the past few years, Sara and I have had significant changes in our lives, some quite painful. Almost everything about our lives has changed in the last two years—from moving homes to reordering our lives significantly to the loss of valuable family relationships to giving up writing for a while, and even the death of my dad and a few other significant men in my life. Last week, we even lost our beloved golden retriever, Abby, who had been a substantial part of our family for the past thirteen years.

Loss hurts, and changes forced upon us by circumstance or the actions of others can be so hard to bear. But that doesn’t mean they can’t lead to gratefulness. In our pain and grief, Sara and I hold the sorrow of our hearts in the presence of Jesus until the loss is swallowed up in his goodness and joy. That’s what grief is supposed to do: to replace the sting of loss with the sweet memories and gifts they instilled in us. That process can take months or even years, but if you hold it in him, his glory will appear.

A few days ago, a good friend, Dana Andreychen of Charlottesville, VA, sent me a poem called Autumn. She also wrote the poem Allowing My Past to Catch up with Me, which I shared here almost eighteen months ago. Not only was the poem timely for a story unfolding in our lives, but it also expresses what it means to love our childhood selves through the trauma they experienced.

Autumn was written out of deep grief and captures this pathway through loss to life so eloquently.


Summer makes its exit
like a treasured soul who
runs through my hands like water
which grasping cannot hold.
With tenderness, I release my grip
and watch it float upward
like a crimson leaf
on this morning’s current
toward a crisp blue sky,
then settle like Autumn
to a littered ground
of harvest color.
I lift it up, body and soul,
and treasure it beautiful,
palms open,
for what it is, for what it was,
for what it may become.
I press it between the pages
of a beloved book
relishing the stories I find there,
and put it on my shelf of favorites
whose lines I will quote from time to time.
Which has played
a part in my becoming.
At times I will reread the volume
of what has been written
in indelible ink,
while knowing that seasons change.
After musing for a while,
I close the book,
place the treasured tome
in its place of honor
and walk out into the unfolding of today…

I love the imagery here of trying to grasp what cannot be grasped and holding our loss lightly as you see how presence and loss are both part of the story God is writing in our hearts. Finally, we can honor the joy of what we lost, place it among our sweetest memories, and open our hearts to what this day might hold.

Not only is this true for the loss of valued relationships, but it is also true for loss brought on by bad fortune, betrayal, or treachery. The latter is far sweeter to process, of course, as you can be thankful for the gift those people were in your life. Nonetheless, even the brutal circumstances in our lives can write God’s story in our hearts in ways that will shape us for whatever else is to come.

Either way, letting Jesus resolve the pain in our hearts will shape us more to live with his grace in the world. In time, you will find yourself overwhelmingly grateful that he is greater than any circumstance that can befall us.

I hope you find your way to thanksgiving, even in moments of loss and disappointment. Learning how he does this will serve you well as your future unfolds.

2 thoughts on “Grateful Even in Letting Go”

  1. Pingback: Grateful Even in Letting Go | Lifestream – The Faith Herald

  2. Pingback: When Aspiration Becomes Expectation (#921) | The God Journey

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