Sometimes gratitude comes easily. Sometimes it…doesn’t.
Gratitude. Thankfulness. Gratefulness. Appreciation. Call it what you want; the season is upon us, and it can often bring to mind the things we aren’t grateful for just as readily as the things we are. In a world full of war, sickness, and unfulfilled dreams, sometimes gratitude requires effort.
And that’s okay.
A quick online search revealed that gratitude is frequently associated with a “feeling” or “emotion.” But do feelings really demonstrate the intent behind gratitude? I don’t think so. It’s easy to feel thankful when someone shows us kindness or things are going well, but how do we view gratitude when we’re in the thick of difficulty?
Lots of gratitude-centered Bible verses are found in the writings of Paul. If you’re not familiar with Paul, he authored more books of the Bible than anyone else and lived life boldly in order to spread the Gospel after Jesus ascended back to Heaven. But living boldly for Jesus back then was, uh, frowned upon, to put it lightly, which resulted in many of Paul’s most inspiring Bible passages being written from prison.
I’m no Bible scholar, but even Paul was human—he most likely wouldn’t have been feeling all that happy or thankful in his natural circumstances when he was shipwrecked or imprisoned.
Thankfully, Paul knew better than most that truth doesn’t depend on feelings. He refused to let his circumstances dictate his views on God’s goodness or the purpose of life or any of those complex issues we tend to question when life gets hard.
The Holy Spirit works within us on a supernatural level when we deliberately refuse to soak in our negative emotions and instead find things to be grateful for. And Paul knew it. He experienced it, and maybe you have too. Finding things to be grateful for, no matter our circumstances, is a great way to invite God to pull us out of our negativity spirals.
Sometimes gratitude flows without any effort at all, and in these wonderful times, we should soak it in and praise the Lord. But when praises don’t flow effortlessly, we need to pause and point our eyes to Jesus. What can he show us about who he is and what he’s doing in our lives? What can he reveal about his bigger purposes? What is he whispering to our hearts? Ask him, and then thank him.
God’s purposes are always greater than our own, even when they haven’t yet been revealed. Once our hearts are centered securely on him, our gratitude will flow whether we just won the lottery or we’re sitting in a prison cell, and his strength will fill us in new ways.
To quote author Ann Voscamp, “Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. Gratitude is a declaration that GOD IS GOOD no matter what happens.” And God’s goodness has nothing to do with our feelings or perceptions. His goodness is a truth that cannot be rocked or changed, and that alone is something big to be grateful for.
Cultivating a grateful spirit is always worth it whether it comes naturally or requires extra effort… because God is always worthy. This season, let’s be deliberate to focus in on all the many blessings we have, big and small, and give thanks, keeping in mind that giving thanks doesn’t discount the difficulties we’re facing; it strengthens us to face them.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, American friends! 🙂
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