Digging deep for gratitude. That sounds like a daunting task, especially if you’re in the midst of a dark time in your life. A loved one has just died. You’ve lost your job. Your spouse has been unfaithful. You’ve received a cancer diagnosis. A son or daughter is in the throes of addiction and you helplessly can do nothing but stand by and watch. Everything spins out of control and you ask yourself, where is God?
I have faced these obstacles many times since fainting in my kitchen in 2013 and waking up paralyzed from the shoulders down. Although I glowed with confidence the first few weeks in the hospital claiming I would do great things, like write a book about my life, by the time I was settled into a long-term care facility, completely dependent on others to function, my mood took a dramatic fall into the depths of despair and I felt like I didn’t want to live.
How do we find gratitude when everything feels so hopeless? Would you be put off if I said it takes work? It requires making a commitment to feel your pain and then allowing God to sooth your heartache with prayer, his word, and the support of others.
Psalm 62: 5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. 6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
Unfortunately, I do not always seek rest and hope in God, and being grateful can seem unattainable. I often wake up feeling down and unmotivated and the past few days were no exception. I am taking a class called Spiritual Transformations and I have been excited about learning how to rein in my emotions so that I can live a fuller, freer life. Yet it’s been a struggle to even want to read the material because it requires me to address my feelings. Instead of praying over this and then digging in, I’ve spent time binge-watching shows about maladjusted people and their dysfunctional lives. Very uplifting!
Romans 8: 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Saying no to my flesh can be a challenge when I feel as if I don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to read the Scriptures, pray, or seek guidance from a trusted friend. My flesh wants to tune out and be entertained. It seems so much easier to scroll through social media than to pick up the phone and call someone. And prayer? Sometimes the adversary convinces me that my prayers don’t make a difference so why even try? I find that my avoidance behaviors are similar to why I drank in active alcoholism. I never wanted to feel anything challenging and thought I had nothing to be grateful for, so I stayed drunk.
Romans 12: 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.
This scripture teaches me that we are going to have affliction in our lives, it’s unavoidable. But we must continue to be joyful in hope and faithful in prayer. This morning I did not feel like rejoicing but I still found reasons to be grateful. I thanked God for allowing me to live in a place where I’m safe and am treated with respect. I thanked him for his mercies that are new every morning, and really, every minute of every day. Even when I start the day doing what I think is easy (tuning out), I can change my mind at any time and do what will give me life to the full. Most importantly, I thanked God for whatever he is teaching me at this time. Even in our deepest darkness, there is some reason to say, thank you, God. My heart and my mind felt so relieved and at peace after my prayer. God will bless our efforts to be grateful and to stay close to him!
Habakkuk 3: 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.