It’s that week that comes every year. The one where suddenly we are supposed to make our lives come to a screeching halt, take on the stress of making an insanely large meal, gather together, and contemplate all we have to be thankful for. Then next week, we’ll be back at the rush of life, forgetting most of the things we shared at that table.
It’s a funny thing. We think we can inject one episode of gratitude and then be on our way for another year. As with anything, a single event, a single day, even a single week, does not cultivate a life or a heart that fully leans into gratitude.
There’s tons of research on gratitude and what it does for the brain (here is one example.) Scripture also continually points us to a heart of gratitude towards the Lord as a way of praising Him and living in joy (Psalm 106:1, 1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). So why is it so hard? Why do we so quickly forget that there is goodness around us at any point in time? The world around us creates a battlefield as we try to embrace gratitude.
Personally, I lean into the nature of seeing what’s wrong, glass half empty kind of gal, with situations. I know that isn’t everyone’s bent, but it’s mine. That’s strike one. Additionally, as I survey our environment and the broken world in which we live, many things we interact with are pointing us away from gratitude and contentment and towards the bigger, better, best we don’t have. Don’t hear me saying that improving and doing and being better are bad things. They aren’t. But as with anything, they can become a negative influence in our lives.
I can rattle off 100 things that are not going well for me right now or that I wish were different. Of those 100 things, there are probably 50 of them that some sort of product or item has been advertised to me to fix my problem. It makes me wonder, did I even think it was a problem before someone tried to point towards a pricey solution? Flip that though and try to rattle off 100 things I am grateful for, and that is likely an uphill battle. The brokenness seems to pervade every part of our world at times. It can be so hard to find good in the things we are facing.
Until you reframe your perspective.
I think at its heart, this is really what gratitude is all about. It isn’t about pretending everything is wonderful and perfect and great. It isn’t ignoring the hard, difficult parts of life that all of us experience. Gratitude at its core, is looking around and reframing our circumstances to a place that is centered on what’s good, not what’s bad. I also don’t believe it is coming from a place of belief that things could be worse. For me, that just points me towards more worst case scenarios. Again, it’s reframing my center to how I can be content in this moment, in this circumstance. And that contentment is birthed out of a heart of gratitude.
As a person of faith, I am well aware that God calls us to look to Him in everything, allowing us to find true peace and contentment in every situation in our lives. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel pain or mourn loss when those seasons or situations arise. I believe it means our eyes and our hearts are anchored in God and His goodness, and therefore we can see the goodness all around us. We can find joy in the worst of moments. We can not have solutions, but we can still have a heart that is thankful for the miracles we see around us right now.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy. And a heart like this isn’t grown out of easy seasons of comfort. True gratitude comes from the battlefield of the hard, difficult parts of life.
Recently, Matt and I have had some really hard weeks. Weeks full of weighty decisions, coming to terms with the reality that certain things we hoped for didn’t go as planned, and somehow still functioning in the world when parts of it seem to be crumbling around us. If you’ve been there, you know. Under the pressure of keeping it together while working towards figuring out very necessary things can be overwhelming to say the least. It came to a boiling point the other morning. We were both exhausted and frustrated and took that feeling out on each other. Through tears of having no true resolution to the circumstances of our lives, we somehow managed to come back to a place where we were for each other, not against one another.
As Matt left to go to work, one of our kids skipped by him and cheerfully exclaimed, “Bye Daddy! I love you!” She moved on, a large smile still plastered on her face.
“Did you see how she said goodbye to you?” I texted him.
“Yes.” He replied.
“There’s something to remember today. Just remember that smile.” I said back.
“Indeed. I will.” He texted.
And something as simple as that, was such a defiant act of gratitude that truly carried me through the rest of the day. I say an act of defiance because nothing in my circumstances told me I had something to be grateful for. Gratitude can be a light that shines through the darkness. It can be a source that guides us through our days. It is surely a battle, but one worth fighting. Not just this Thursday, but every single day.