We are living in times that provide a breeding ground for ingratitude. Jobs are lost. Families are falling apart. Children are going wayward. Suffering does not discriminate. If you are reading this, you are probably suffering in some way.
So, as we gaze ahead over the holiday season and reflect on what we are thankful for, what happens when you are going through difficulty and cannot seem to muster up the gratitude?
Jennifer* tells us her story of how she went from disillusionment to bitterness to healing to gratitude during a dark time in her life as she struggled with infertility.
“You have plans for your life, a map of how things are supposed to turn out. When I got married, having kids was part of the plan,” she recalled. “We tried for a long time, with no success. It took several years for me to realize it just wasn’t going to happen for me.”
It was during this time that the seeds of ingratitude were planted.
“My relationship with the Lord took a blow,” Jennifer said. “Scripture tells us that God is the giver of life, and I couldn’t understand why He would not allow life to be given through me. It’s especially hard, because people get pregnant through rape, or through promiscuity.”
“However, I could have provided a stable home with a loving family, so I was ticked at God. So, I went through this crisis of unbelief, anger and bitterness. This also presented an identity crisis for me.”
The feelings of ingratitude came and went through holidays, birthdays, Mother’s Day, and other mile markers throughout the year. For Jennifer, everything was defined by that void. “The desire in my heart was unfulfilled.”
One day, she had a turning point. She took what she decided would be her very last pregnancy test, and it was negative. She was hopeless, and she was suicidal. After calling in sick at work, she sat on the couch, and began to mull over the far-reaching consequences of taking her life.
“I had a ‘snap-to’ moment. My core kind of heard myself say, ‘What are you thinking? You are a child of God. Knock it off!’”
It would still be a couple of years before she would draw close to God and become truly thankful for the blessings in her life.
One day as she was commuting to work and listening to the radio, she heard a worship song with these words in the lyrics: “You were worth it all. ” In an instant, the depth of the love of God came upon her. She felt Him pursuing and telling her that there is something He wanted to teach her. She allowed Him to penetrate that hardness. She began to worship.
“The relationship I had with Him became worth every bit of heartache I had gone through. I finally understood that my life is not about me.”
Cultivating a Thankful Heart
Now, having survived her difficult journey with her faith intact, Jennifer has two points of advice for navigating tough times with a heart of thanksgiving.
1. Focus on things above.
“It’s not about you. Your journey is difficult and uncomfortable. Just remember that you were created to reflect the glory of God. Focus on things above, like Colossians 3:2 tells us. There will always be resolve. It may not come on this side of eternity. But, we don’t need to know all things. Our minds cannot wrap around God’s purpose for everything. After all, the Bible tells us there will be suffering. I needed to give up the ‘right’ to understand and exchange it for a heart that sees the glory, beauty and majesty of God.”
2. Choose worship.
“God is worthy of praise and glory. Your emotions don’t dictate God’s worthiness. Anytime you worship God from a broken heart, when you empty the last bit you have and you give it to God, there is a wonderful exchange. When you don’t understand God and you choose worship anyway, there is something supernatural that happens in those moments.”
*Name has been changed.