Henri Nouwen: The Spiritual Work of Gratitude

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Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Psalm 25:6

“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work.

Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) reading for 12 January entitled, “The Spiritual Work of Gratitude.”

This is an easy post to read and hard one to practice. But I think Nouwen is right. It requires hard spiritual work to remember with gratitude the good and the bad. When we do, we see the mercy and love of God at work through it all.

To remember only the good is denial at best and detrimental at worst. It stunts our growth. I am learning more about myself as I reflect on my failures. There I also discover more about our generous, merciful, and loving God.

To grow in generosity this year, let’s do the hard spiritual work of remembering both the good and the bad in our lives. Pause to do this. You will get out of it what you put into it. See what God may want to teach you to help you grow.