Practices of gratitude can be distorted when we imagine that Christians are always supposed to be smiling and cheerful, even in the face of suffering, tragedy, or grave injustice. To live gratefully is not the same as denying the misery or evil around us.
Misunderstandings of the importance of gratitude can turn it into a spiritual bludgeon used to smash the heartache or grief out of people.
Gratitude involves knowing that we are held secure by a loving God, and that the God we worship is trustworthy, despite the nearly unbearable sorrow we might encounter along the way. (Psalm 13).
A capacity to be thankful in the midst of hard times requires acknowledging that we do not know the whole story, that we are living before it is complete, and that we are thankful for the presence of God and faithful persons in our lives.
Gratitude is a crucial way in which death and destruction do not have the final word, and cannot finally define us.
Gratitude is most striking when it is lived out in difficult circumstances. For many centuries, people have observed that “Christians die well.” When this is the case, surely it has to do with a combination of confidence in eternal life and the fact that dying persons are surrounded by a loving and faithful community that accompanies them in their last days.
One pastor in the project told of a parishioner who was dying of cancer and described several woman in the congregation as spiritual midwives.
They were fully present and helpful as the woman moved toward death and birth into her new life. The congregation and she were knit together in prayer, gratitude, and fidelity.
Our capacity for gratitude is not connected with an abundance of resources but rather with a capacity to notice what it is that we do have. This is expressed powerfully in the traditional African-American prayer of gratitude that the Lord “woke me up in the morning clothed in my right mind.
Living into Community – Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us
Written by Christine D. Pohl (Pages 26-27)