An Attitude of Gratitude: In Everything Give Thanks

clouds and hay

Giving thanks is easy when a new job comes along, or a new baby.  Giving thanks is easy when we are sailing along, and life is good.  But, then “disaster” strikes, and our natural inclination to thank, flies right out the window.  And, we are left feeling abandoned and asking God why.

As Christians, it’s very easy to feel that the initial act of salvation, belief in God, and “following” Him is enough to create a reliant relationship upon God.  Often times I think we feel that we have trusted God with our ETERNAL life, and that’s enough.  I find it odd that we are so willing to allow Him to control our eternity, but we struggle with mentally allowing Him a role in our daily lives.  We trust Him to allow us to enter Heaven, but we get upset when we don’t get the job we REALLY wanted, and we seem to think that we know best.  We forget that following Him means accepting His will, even if it’s not what we envisioned for our lives at that time. Up until June of 2013, I thought God and I were sailing along just fine.  I trusted Him, he blessed me.  I had a few hiccups in my life, and then they were fixed, but nothing major.  No real test of faith… and so, until then, it was easy to accept God’s will and be thankful for it at the same time.

A long-time friend of mine challenged us to come up with one word to focus on for 2014.  I liked this idea much better than a resolution.  And, so, I chose:

Gratitude

I debated on many words: determination, faith, confidence, but my mind kept coming back to gratitude. I found myself reflecting on the past almost 8 months, and trying to pin point what brought me out of the fog I felt after losing J.  After some reflection, it occurred to me that I finally truly started thanking God.  It started out small at first, but the more I practiced, the easier it became.  I developed an appreciation, and turned all situations back to praise. Which makes it sound like a 5 step process: step 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and now you have an attitude of gratitude; however….

An attitude of gratitude isn’t an occasional thought process, and it isn’t a thought process that is natural for us as humans.  It’s something we have to work towards daily.  When we signed up to trust in God, and receive eternal life, we signed up to follow Him, and accept His will – no matter the short-term outcome of it.  We signed up to allow God to be in control of our lives, and to trust that in the end, all things work out for the good of Him.

I agree, believe me, it’s beyond difficult.  I’ve OFTEN times, thought, and sometimes even voiced out loud: “God, you want me to thank you for losing my husband?” Yep, I’ll admit my faults, and in my opinion, I think God expects them. As a human, when I watched J take his last breath, I wasn’t thanking God.  I didn’t thank Him when I attended the visitation, the funeral, the many events that occurred afterwards.  I didn’t thank Him when I had to explain to C how his daddy died, or why he would never come back. I spent a good while angry. Gratitude is difficult to express when we don’t see any potential good in a situation.  And, I’ve written frequently on finding the purpose for J’s death, and how I need to weigh it on God’s scales and not my own.  My scales are overweighed with doubt, insecurities, and grief.

Our doubt is just one of the many reasons we needed to trust in Him to receive eternal salvation.  I do find it difficult to have an attitude of gratitude when it comes to J’s death.  I find it difficult to be thankful for something when I can’t see the purpose or the outcome of it. When I look into C’s eyes and see hurt, or I lay in bed at night wishing for one more “I love you,” my human mind doesn’t immediately thank God.    I’m still working on finding gratitude in all areas of my life.  For now, I’m focusing on thanking Him for the smaller pieces of it:

  1. The incredible family and friends I have gained.
  2. The doors that are opening and allowing me to help others as a result of J’s death.
  3. My ability to grieve but still try to give C as normal a life as possible.
  4. The ability to seek justice in the court system.
  5. Wonderful therapists who go above and beyond to ensure we are doing as well as possible.
  6. An understanding and supportive family.
  7. My ability to see my strength, to believe in my ability, and to use this experience to find ways to praise our God.
  8. The numerous memories I have of J and how grateful I am for the years we were given together.
  9. That I get to watch J’s legacy and beliefs impact our community.
  10. Finally, that God gave me C – he’s my reminder daily of how great my life still is.

Honestly, the list could continue on for much longer, but the idea is that while I may not can thank God for my husband’s death, I can thank Him for the opportunities that have came out of J’s death, and maybe that’s the point.  If I truly trust God, then I trust that all things work for HIS good and his purpose.  And while I didn’t want to lose my husband, I can be thankful that I have chosen to make positive out of a negative situation.

Many people ask me how I do that.  How can you be so positive? Well, it’s a choice.  Being positive doesn’t mean that you never see the negative, it just means that you chose to make the best out of every situation. When I find it difficult to go forward with a positive attitude, when I just simply want to lay in bed and cry, I try to envision the verse:

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Isaiah 41:13

How can my life not work out if one of God’s hands is holding mine, and the other is overseeing my life?  When I think that there’s just no way to see the good, and to thank Him for a situation, I have tried to envision this verse.  And, while I know God understands my doubts, my questions, and my attempts to just “do it myself,” I still try to find the good- my attitude of gratitude.

So, maybe you think I’m crazy to try to find the good in the death of my husband.  But, I don’t have to find it, when I am a part of creating it.  My attitude of gratitude is easier because as God is holding my right hand, I’m working on using my left to create some good in the world.  And no, this post isn’t meant to praise myself.  I promise, I have my fair share of doubts, insecurities, and independent streaks.  Instead, this post is to remind you that accepting Christ isn’t the last of our trust in Him; it’s just the beginning.  And in order to trust Him, you simply have to be thankful.

As I continue on this journey of gratitude, I would like to thank you for all of your prayers, support, and belief in me!  You all know how to make a girl feel loved, and I hope you know that I pray for you as well. I pray that you will be able to find moments of gratitude in your own life.  Anger at the situation doesn’t change it, but being grateful for the opportunity to turn it into something good does change it.

isaiah 41 13

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