For Times of Sadness

Andrew Garland Breeden

The challenge of writing on the theme of gratitude is to avoid becoming trite and sentimental, reducing the subject matter, which is actually quite serious, to something stale. A simpler task would be to make a list of all the good and obvious things we should be grateful for and why we should be grateful for them. But that list would not include circumstances that aren’t so obviously good. What can we say about the good things—emotions, experiences, and events—that come to us in disguise and hardly seem good at all?

devozine Frustrated TSP 119531667Life is filled with difficulty and disappointment. Relationships fail; people let us down; plans do not work out. And, to be frank, we are not well equipped to handle the pain life hands us.

Consider these words from Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, . . . perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown.”

Rilke was saying something important to a young person who, in his own day, was experiencing the difficulties and disappointments of life. (Letters to a Young Poet offers depths of wisdom no matter what your age or when you are living. It is well worth reading.)

Tears2 TSP 101081000Why would we give thanks for life’s troubles in the same way we thank God for all the good that comes our way? In moments of sadness, we often learn something about ourselves; and through difficult times, we can come into our own. All the other moments, the ones that are plainly good and happy times, stand on the periphery and look in. They are good, and yet we are not as likely to learn from them.

In each sadness and in each moment of distress, we encounter knowledge about ourselves that we must reach out and take hold of. Do not misunderstand. To be grateful for our pain is not to say we learn to be comfortable with it or that we seek it out. Plenty of pain will come our way without our looking for it. But what would change in our lives if we could be grateful for times of sadness, for those moments when, as Rilke says, “something new has entered into us, something unknown”?


This week, think about how you might cultivate a posture of gratitude toward all your emotions, events, and experiences. Recall a recent disappointment or difficulty. What have you learned about yourself as a result of this experience? How have you grown? Say a prayer thanking God for this time of sadness in your life.

Andrew Garland Breeden is from Charlotte, Tennessee.

—from devozine (July/August 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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