Thankful For Loss

Below is the first post I ever submitted to the Huffington Post. To my surprise, it was rather controversial. I’d love to know what you think.

A little insider info about the title. When I submitted the article, I asked the editor for an opinion about whether or not to use a question mark at the end of the title “Thankful for Loss? Or, Thankful for Loss.” My question was never answered and the title was printed as submitted. I thought this was funny! Now that I’ve seen the responses to the article, I know what the title should have been.

At the end of the article I have attached a link that will allow you read the nearly 150 comments online about this article. I’d love to know what you think here, so please chime in!


THANKFUL FOR LOSS (Huffington Post Religion) by Gina Kell Spehn

Whenever an actor, athlete or musician glorifies God in the wake of their victory cynicism rears its ugly head with the collective eye roll of skeptics everywhere. They love to point out that Christians never seem to give thanks to God when we lose.

Or do we?

My husband, Michael and I have learned that being thankful in our losses is not only possible but also necessary. The deaths of our first spouses to cancer taught us what it truly means to be thankful for the blessings found not only in the victories this life offers but also the losses.

When my first husband Matt was diagnosed with cancer he wasn’t triumphantly praising God for his diagnosis. He was, however, quietly reflecting gratitude for everything in his life that wasn’t cancer. I watched Matt, a dying man, celebrate life and serve others in the midst of his suffering. There is perhaps nothing more humbling. He also gave cynics something new to consider when he called his cancer battle a “win-win” situation. He believed that a cure is a win and heaven is a win.

With a young family and a successful career it was easy to admire Matt’s life from a distance. Yet, oddly, even after he was facing a terminal diagnosis many of us closest to him found ourselves admiring him more than ever before, but not for the reasons one might think.

Matt’s courage wasn’t found in his determination to beat cancer (though he was certainly determined to do just that), rather, it was his unwavering commitment to trust in the unseen, eternal promises of a God who could use even a devastating, evil disease like cancer for good purposes.

Let the world take note, no red carpet or trophy can compare to a life of genuine gratitude and faith.

Certainly cancer is not enviable, but for Matt to believe there is victory in cancer is remarkable. It is undoubtedly a gift when a dying man learns to appreciate his life and resolve to fight for it, but Matt also recognized and believed that cancer, through him, could be used for triumphant purposes as well. He wrote:

“As a believer, the prospects of untimely death should not break me. I can be a better witness through death at age 35 than I could ever be living a blessed life into my 80′s. In a perverse way, dying with grace, dignity and hope and joy is a great gift.”

God let’s nothing go to waste. If we are open to receiving his grace, he will use anything for his purposes. Our job is to be aware of God’s presence in all circumstances, even suffering and loss.

Imagine an athlete or movie star using a defeat (nowhere comparable to death) as a platform for helping others or giving thanks. Seems contrary to our culture to esteem a loser, yet life’s greatest lessons are often born out of losses.

Growing up I recall overhearing adults talk about the alcoholic who hit rock bottom or the criminal who got caught and suddenly they found Jesus. They were considered weak and in need of the “Jesus crutch.” At the time I bought into it. However, I’ve since come to know Jesus. He specializes in meeting people in their place of need. The drunks, criminals, diseased and lonely are all alike to him. When you strike out on three pitches, or “the Oscar goes to…” someone else, or God forbid, a doctor in a white lab coat calls you in to a 10 x 10 room to give you that evil diagnosis… no matter what dark place we find ourselves, Jesus brings the light with the presence of his grace and mercy.

I believe it was fitting that Matt died on Christmas Day, the most celebrated day of the year. It’s a beautiful metaphor for his life and a constant reminder that despite our losses, we must simultaneously celebrate the life we are given and receive the gifts of faith that are being delivered to us, even in our darkest hours.

The spotlights of this world fade and award winning moments pass, but a life focused on the eternal promises of God is a life fulfilled, even in cancer; even in our losses; even in death.

To read the Huff Post comments, please click HERE. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to read the comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Thankful For Loss

  1. Gina, thank you so much to you, Michael and your kids to bravely share your story … you didn’t have to do it, but you did. I found myself crying (in sadness and joy) and rejoicing with you all as you embraced your grief and turned a negative into a positive. I finished the book, and I was like…”now what do I do? I don’t have the ability to be a fly on the wall and listen to their ever encouraging stories”. I was filled with Hope and renewed Faith. God Bless you all!!!

  2. Gina, I am just now finishing your book and have learned so much from it. I am 68 and in good heath but I know that my daughter Jennifer will have to face what you and Michael did sometime in the future. I am giving a copy of your book to her for Christmas and given her faith in God, I know she will understand what you wrote and it will be of comfort to her. You really have a gift for writing and I hope you continue to write.

  3. I caught the end part of your interview on Family Life Today on the radio. I’m so blessed at how God is glorified in your story, in your choices and in your words. I read the article and a handful of comments. The amount of vitriol in the comments are not surprising for The Huffington Post (based on articles I’ve read on different topics). Christianity has always been controversial; that’s the way it is. One thing that struck me as I was reading the comments is that how we think about God affects so much of our person. It colors everything. A person who believes that there is no God will ultimately behave in ways that will reflect that religious worldview.

    I thought your articles was not offensive at all. I’m Christian, so I agree with your points. I loved that quote from your first husband. His worldview is so different from the worldviews of some the commenters.

  4. Gina, Wow. Now I have a whole new set of people for whom I need to pray. There are a lot of hopeless people out there. I pray for the opening of their eyes to the peace that passes all understanding.