With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, thinking about thankfulness seems kind of like the default thing to do at this time of year. Thinking about gratitude and actually being grateful are two separate things, though. In the midst of all the lessons 2020 may be teaching us, practicing gratitude in the midst of disappointment might be at the top of that list.
“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” –Alice Walker
The grass is greener on the other side.
I’ve often thought about gratitude as a garden I need to cultivate. Now, I don’t know what your relationship with gardening is, but I’m what you would call a brown thumb. I don’t take very good care of my plants. Most of the time I forget to water my plants. They’ll stay out in the sun too long or not enough. I’m not purposeful in my attention and care of plants that are entrusted to me.
It works the same way with the garden of gratitude.
I must be faithful to water those seeds of gratitude, and surround them with nourishing soil. When I place my focus on the garden that has been given to me, those seeds of gratitude will grow. The grass is greener where you water it, or so I’ve heard. Those pesky weeds still grow through that green grass, though.
The hurt is real, but so is grace.
I stumbled across that quote during a recent social media scroll. I’m sure it isn’t news to anyone that disappointment is a part of life. For some reason, that reality seems to be in the spotlight more often than not lately. Since March of this year, month after month has brought all sorts of disappointments our way. From the minor inconvenience to the spirit-crushing defeat, no matter what the disappointment is, the hurt that it brings is very real.
Grace is always there to meet us in the hurt.
The reality of grace gives me hope. I’ve experienced it time after time, that kindness and mercy that’s faithful to meet me in the midst of my pain. But grace doesn’t make the hurt go away, or make disappointments any less devastating.
Being thankful when you don’t feel like it.
Dealing with disappointment is exhausting. I don’t feel like doing much of anything when my heart is heavy. Practicing gratitude in the midst of disappointment: easier said than done. How am I supposed to be thankful when I just don’t feel like it?
My friends at The Wandering Hearth actually wrote about this a few weeks ago. It was really encouraging to know I wasn’t the only one who struggles with feeling thankful when life gets tough.
The main way to practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment is to practice it.
If you’re struggling with being grateful, practicing gratitude will help. Just like any other muscle we’re trying to strengthen, it’s going to take some intentional work on our part to grow that gratitude muscle.
Keeping a gratitude journal has been a helpful practice for me over the years. Through different seasons of struggle and disappointment, being intentional to write down the little things I notice that I’m thankful for each day has helped strengthen my gratitude muscle. Pushing through to find things to be thankful for when they’re hardest to come by helps shine a light in the darkness.
Practicing gratitude in 2020.
With everything that’s happened this year, it might be tempting to just throw all this giving thanks business out the window.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1
This verse gives me hope, and helps to remind me why gratitude is important. I give thanks not based on my circumstances, or how I’m feeling about something, but on His goodness. A goodness that’s unchanging even in the midst of difficult circumstances. His love endures forever, and will see me through the most difficult of disappointments.
When disappointments threaten to overwhelm us, may the grace that gratitude brings rush in to the rescue.