A while back, I wrote a reflection for this blog called “‘Attitude of Gratitude’: Blessing or Burden?” in which I shared that “I sometimes struggle with this ‘attitude of gratitude’ thing.” I then elaborated a little by saying that “every now and then it’s difficult for me to feel gratitude for all that is good in my life without also considering those who may not be experiencing similar levels of goodness….”
I went on to share that after many months of making faithful entries in a “gratitude journal,” I had deliberately stopped writing in it because “[it] had been so easy for me to be grateful for so many good things in my life, that I had begun to feel unfairly ‘gifted’ with Goodness…and I didn’t know what to do with that.”
By the end of the piece (after quite a bit of wordy reflecting!), I had come to a conclusion (developed, in large part, in response to a devotional written by Henri Nouwen), generally summarized with these words: “For myself, I want to move away from being grateful simply for that which seems good, and move toward being able to ‘give thanks in all circumstances,’ trusting more and more that ‘all things work together for good for those who love God’–which I believe I do– ‘who are called according to [God’s] purpose’–which I believe I am.”
As I consider these words and thoughts, shared by me, myself, a few years ago, I feel less satisfied with them now than I did then. Not because they strike me as any less true…but because they strike me as, perhaps, incomplete.
I’ve recently been experiencing some similar conflicting feelings around the idea of gratitude–how do I feel grateful without feeling guilty? One way is to do what I said I wanted to do a few years ago, and express gratitude not only for what’s obviously good but also for what is less obviously good–the difficult, the painful, the infuriating, the uncertain…..trusting that God, in God’s wisdom and goodness, will use all of it in the creation of Something Good….
But I think I’ve stumbled upon another way. Another possible way of living with gratitude, without guilt. And that is to completely shift the focus of my gratitude away from myself and my experience, good, bad, or otherwise! Perhaps this other (better??) way of being grateful actually has nothing to do with me! Imagine that! 🙂
But how can I be grateful if my gratitude has nothing to do with me??
Well, I was recently looking at some Scripture verses on giving thanks…and I was struck by what seemed like a simple theme (and kind of embarrassed that it hadn’t struck me before…): we are to give thanks to God for God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, and God’s love. That’s it. That, in a nutshell, is what we are to give thanks for.
“Give thanks to the Lord,” we read in Psalm 106, “for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Those words, that message, that command, can be found in so many places in the Bible, in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
We are to give thanks to God, for God’s goodness and God’s faithfulness and God’s love…
Not for the “good” things in my life, but for God’s goodness in all of life….
Not for the “bad” things in my life, but for God’s faithfulness throughout all of life….
Not for anything, necessarily, specific to my life, but for God’s love as the foundation of all of life…
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1b)
God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s love–completely and totally not dependent on me!
God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s love–completely and totally available to any person, anywhere, in any life situation.
God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s love–complete and total gift.
Those are things, indeed, for which I can be grateful, guilt-free.
All day, every day, forevermore.
May it be so….