“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” (Neale Donald Walsch)

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I realize it’s more than two weeks before Thanksgiving. At least in the United States. But it’s never too early to be thankful. So let’s take a look at this quotation on gratitude. 

Neale Donald Walsch

Neale Donald Walsch is an American writer, known best for the series of books he began publishing back in 1995 entitled, “Conversations With God.” Not only did the first book spend nearly three years on the New York Times Best Seller list, but the success of the other books in the series has been no less than extraordinary. Though I don’t intend to discuss the theology of Walsch, the way these books came about is remarkable. 

Walsch experienced a number of tragic losses in his life back in the early 1990’s. He lost all his possessions in a fire, his marriage ended, he lost his nearly 30-year career, and he was in a serious car accident in which his neck was broken.

In only a short time he found himself homeless, sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag, and collecting bottles and cans to sell so he could raise enough cash each day to eat. He was homeless for nearly a year. He was almost 50 years old at the time. Eventually, he was able to find work as a back-up radio program host. His career had been in broadcasting.

One night, awakened at 4:00 am, he was so fed up with life that he was ready to end it. In a frustrated and desperate state, he began to write an angry letter to God. Expressing his discontent with life, he asked God why he had allowed all of these things to happen to him.

He said he was shocked when God began to answer his questions. He frantically wrote down what he heard so he wouldn’t forget. This routine continued each night for months. What Walsch heard and wrote became the basis for his series of books. He asked God the same questions you or I would have asked. 

I can’t recommend these books because I haven’t read them. I can say they’re extremely popular and have sold more than 10 million copies, and been translated into 37 languages. Their popularity may make you more inclined to read them or less inclined. You be the judge.  

But whether you’ve read “Conversations With God,” plan to read it, or plan NOT to read it, we should nevertheless consider one of Walsh’s quotations.

Suffering is inevitable

Only the foolish or naive would think they can go through life without any loss, pain, and suffering. We all experience such things. Some more than others, some less than others. But no one who lives even a short life escapes all suffering.

We all experience things we don’t like. We all go through unpleasant things. We all have bouts with pain. These experiences might be physical. They might be mental. They might be relational. They might be financial. Sometimes the pain is on multiple fronts. Such was the case with Neale Walsch. Sometimes it seems that we receive more than our fair share of disappointments, frustrations, and losses.

What to do

But what do we do with these things? You’ve already discovered that railing against them is unproductive. Though it might relieve some discomfort for a short time, it doesn’t bring us any lasting peace or resolution.

Walsch offers a radical change in perspective. A call to look at our situation through a different lens. To consider what we might not know. Or what we may have rejected.

What if our attitude in the midst of difficulty was to be grateful? To be thankful? Could that help? Have we ever tried it? Let’s consider it for a moment. How do we deal with a reality we don’t prefer? How do we navigate the waters of disappointment, pain, and loss?

Try gratitude

Walsch’s suggestion is that we offer gratitude. That we see the experience as a genuine opportunity to be grateful.

Why?

It seems to me there are two main reasons.

The first reason is that we don’t know where the misfortune may lead. I could give you more stories than you have time to listen to of people who have been at the depths of despair—only to later rise to heights they never dreamed possible. In fact, it was when Neale Donald Walsch was in desperation and about to take his own life—that his life began to turn around.

Not because of the fame and fortune that soon came his way. But because his life for the first time began to make sense. To him. The fact that his life changed for the better by his own assessment is nothing to disregard. Remember, this was a man who had given up on life. He saw life as a meaningless and cruel trick being played on him. He was disillusioned, angry, and bitter about life. He was nearly 50 years old. He asked himself if this was all he was able to achieve after nearly half a century of life? It was such a disappointment to him that he could no longer bear the thought of living. This was his own assessment of his own life. 

But then his life began to change. And in his own view it began to change for the better. He began to see the purpose for his life. He had never understood its purpose before. This is most significant. I daresay that most people live their entire lives without ever discovering their purpose. 

The second reason is that there may be something we need to learn from the experience. And the experience is the only way we will learn it. No matter how smart we are, or how educated we may be, or how bright we may appear—there are some things we are slow to learn. We just can’t seem to get certain things. Even after a long time. So we need a special lesson, as it were. Something that’s so profound that we finally grasp what has eluded us so far. Certain experiences have a way of teaching us what we could never learn otherwise.

Try thankfulness

So the next time you begin to despair over an event. Or a disappointment. Or a loss. The next time you’re just plain angry about life. Frustrated. Fed up. Disillusioned. Ready to throw something.

Pause for a moment. Ask yourself if this could be the start of a better life? It’s been said that rock bottom is the best place on which to build a solid foundation. Many have done it. Many have hit rock bottom before they figured it out. So you may want to be grateful for the opportunity to rebuild. It may not be the end as you think. It may actually be the beginning.

Pause for a moment. Ask yourself if there is something you need to learn. Be open to the educational experience. Welcome the opportunity to grow beyond your present state. This can be the time when you finally get it. When it finally begins to make sense. When you begin to understand things you never understood before.

Why not be grateful? Why not be thankful? Why not welcome the opportunity to grow? Why not welcome the opportunity to learn? Why not admit that there are things you can’t possibly know just now? Those things you can’t possibly know now that will play a significant role in your life later.

Give it a shot. What do you have to lose by being grateful? What do you have to lose by being thankful? Not so much thankful FOR the experience. But thankful IN the experience. Because you don’t know what it might bring forth. 

I’m not suggesting this will be easy. I’m suggesting that it’s worth a try.

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Copyright © 2018 by Samuel Rodenhizer
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