When I wrote this post in November 2015, it was everything I knew to be true about gratitude. Fast forward eight years, and everything thing I wrote still holds true for me. Today it was a blessing to revisit these words. And my sincere hope is that by sharing, it blesses you too.
I know what you’re thinking. A blog title in the month of November containing the word gratitude….it’s probably a post full of pretty pictures and/or an inspirational quote with me going on about all of the things I am grateful for.
I hate to disappoint, but this is not that post.
Traditionally, November has always been set aside as a the month for gratitude. A lot of my friends on social media are doing a month-long gratitude series. Even though I’ve been sort of hit-or-miss the past few weeks, gratitude is still foremost in my mind. Gratitude has become a way of life for me. Gratitude has become the lens through which I see my life.
I am so thankful for all of the good things in my life – big and small – from morning coffee to glorious sunsets, from my daughter’s smile to the soft bed I lie down in at night. I am grateful for the beauty of this world that inspires me and lifts my spirits. I am grateful for my senses with which to take it all in.
Seeing my life through the lens of gratitude is acknowledging all the good things in my life – blessings from a good and loving God. But what about when life doesn’t feel good? What happens when life is messy and things get ugly? What does gratitude look like then?
I would suggest that this is when a practice of gratitude is even more powerful.
What is art but a way of seeing?Thomas Berger
Like art, gratitude is really an exercise in learning to see life differently. Gratitude is seeing God’s grace at work in our lives…learning to see beauty and good in things that, at first glance, don’t seem all that good or pretty. Gratitude is finding grace in the struggles and suffering of this life.
Gratitude for emptiness? Gratitude for dark and stormy days? Gratitude for frustration and uncertainty? Yes…I am grateful for all of these. Because it was during all of these painful periods of my life that God was working behind the scenes to bring me to into a fuller, more meaningful life than I could ever have imagined possible. In my darkest days, God was there, strengthening my faith, lighting my path and drawing me ever closer to Him.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. psalm 118:1
Gratitude isn’t only about being grateful for the good things in life, but rather it is being thankful for your life. Gratitude requires that we challenge our finite view of this life and open our eyes to mystery and wonder. Gratitude is less about enjoying comfort in our present circumstances and more about seeing God’s hand at work bringing us closer to Himself. Gratitude is humbly acknowledging our frailty and our weakness, and in return receiving Grace and Mercy.
In my own experience, it is usually through hindsight where I have seen God’s hand at work in my messy, dark days. For me, faith and trust go hand-in-hand with gratitude. I think this is why we say we ‘practice’ gratitude….because there are some days when it is harder than others…there are some days when I really have to work on it.
There are also times when we are faced with the darkness of the world, gratitude feels almost selfish or superficial. Like feeling thankful for my morning coffee in the face of homelessness, poverty, horrific terror attacks, and one humanitarian crisis after another.
But I don’t think that is how gratitude is supposed to work. Because I believe that the real power of gratitude lies in sharing the light and love that we receive from Heavenly Father. The practice of gratitude changes lives when it cultivates in us a a softer, more loving, compassionate heart. Gratitude reaches its full potential when we use these gifts to bring healing and hope to others.
As we move into the holidays, this gratitude is the intention that I hope to carry with me. Because even when it’s hard, gratitude allows me to experience joy in this life – not because life is always good, but because God is always good. Because of gratitude, I have hope and peace in knowing that I am loved by an eternally faithful and merciful God.