Though many people find the prompting to gratitude with the turning of the calendar to November, maintaining a regular gratitude practice helps me battle discouragement. Moving beyond the simple graces of gratitude for myriad everyday blessings, learning how gratitude redeems the hard places revealed the value of those experiences long exiled from my blessings list.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends.
Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always.
We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning the art of “stillness” so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
Hard places belong too
Have you noticed the ease with which we eagerly add the blessings we most enjoyed or expected to our gratitude lists?
My penchant for beauty, laughter, and feeling valued, find frequent representation on my lists. Coveting a time of reflection on God’s goodness at the end of the day, I see His goodness in all of the pleasant and beautiful parts of my day.
But is not the same goodness found among the thorns and pain encountered along the hard paths?
Glancing back over pages of previous gratitude entries, I failed in finding the difficult “thank you”, much less any evidence of how gratitude redeems the hard places.
Because the heartbreaking, loss filled, painful places of my life lived in exile, my heart unable to find grateful utterance.
But choosing gratitude in the hard places, welcomes the exiled experiences back home allowing them their healing purpose in my life.
grace leads the way to hard gratitude
When grace and gratitude meet, you understand true gratitude stems from more than delighting in receiving something which pleased you.
Fully understanding God’s grace extended to me through the undeserved favor of God and others shines forth in humble gratitude which honors the Giver of all grace.
Finding God’s unmerited favor even in the hard places bursts forth with gratitude, as illustrated by the prophet Habakkuk in chapter 3:17-18:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.Habakkuk 3:17-18
How many times I wish the prophet Habakkuk’s words echoed my own. Yet so often suffering silenced my thanksgiving.
When despite our obedience and faithfulness to God, hardship comes or remains, we grow weary with disappointment. Finding nothing thankworthy, we exile the experience from our memory, boxing it up in the attic of the unwanted.
how gratitude redeems the hard places
In order to learn how gratitude redeems the hard places, we must invite them into a place of belonging within our story.
Whatever season you currently face, whether dark valleys or mountaintop bliss, God has a good purpose for every moment.
Trials, hardships, and suffering are not punishments from God; they bring spiritual and personal growth while blessing others and glorifying God.
Make time for gentle exploration of those exiled heartbreaks, losses, and painful experiences over the next several days or weeks. Avoid rushing but invite them back; only this time ask God to show you their perfect fit into your story and how to express gratitude for each one.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.1 Thessalonians 5:18
redeeming the hard places
Avoid overwhelm and anxiety by moving slowly, visiting maybe one or two painful past experiences at a time, journaling thoughts and feelings afterwards.
Always begin each session with deep, mindful breathing as you settle your heart and mind before the Lord. Petition the Lord in prayer for courage and wisdom as you visit each place. Trust Him to reveal His grace, purpose, and goodness in each, and lead you to a grateful heart of praise.
Thoughts for Exploration:
- Guard your heart. Avoid over emotionalizing each situation. While feelings will arise, gently surrender them to the Lord and stay focused on seeing God’s grace, purpose, and goodness, rather than reliving old pain and injustice.
- Grace and growth focus. Rather than focusing on your memory of the event, search for God’s grace and growth as a result of the event.
- God’s Presence. Only with a retrospective view can we finally see God’s Presence in painful situations we locked away. Specifically ask Him to reveal how He walked with you then.
- At times we miss His Presence in the kindness of others to us at hard times.
- We overlook a small provision or comfort afforded us at a difficult time.
- We take for granted His care in the loving gestures of others.
- Gratitude. Take the brave step of first thanking God for the painful experience, then ask Him to increase your sacrifice of thanksgiving into full blown praise.
While you may experience reluctance at beginning to bring your exiled places back into your story, once you start, God’s enabling grace will lead you forward. Close each session in a time of prayer, worship, and consecration.
The gift of gratitude in the hard places
Seeking God for a better understanding of how gratitude redeems the hard paces, I found unexpected rest and healing. Before I bravely brought my exiled heartbreaks, losses, and painful places back into belonging within my story, God’s grace remained an intellectual concept.
Taking God’s hand and revisiting those places through a perspective of gratitude impressed my heart with the magnitude of His grace.
Thanking God for the pleasant trifles encountered, begins gratitude, but offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving from a broken heart embraces the gift of true gratitude for God in the hard places.
Giving thanks from a heart gripped by pain reminds me God brings light into darkness (John 1:5), order out of chaos (Genesis 1:1-3) and victory through pain. (Acts 2:23-24) Though my losses seem unbearable, I am promised all things will be made new (Revelation 21:5) and what others intended for evil, God will redeem for good. (Genesis 50:20)
But the greatest gift by far found in each of my pain-filled experiences, was the gift of God’s Presence. Where before, I saw only His refusal to remove the pain, I now saw He gifted me with His Presence within the pain, that I might know Him more intimately.