Practicing Gratitude

Practicing gratitude can be difficult. We see constant reminders of the world's brokenness all around us—in social interactions, in politics, in what we see on online, in our homes and lives. Sometimes our situations seem overwhelming. Life can often be unfair. We are surrounded by failure, career crises, breakups, health battles, and even death. Is it possible to have gratitude in a world that is so broken? Do these hard things triumph over gratitude?

I’m reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The adverbs are what stand out to me here. We are to rejoice always—not only when we feel like it or when things are going well, but always, even in our darkest moments. We are to pray continually—not sometimes or when we feel inspired, but constantly throughout the day. And in every circumstance, we are to give thanks to God.

I think it is important not only to reflect on gratitude but to declare gratitude. When we can remember, my husband and I will tell each other what we are thankful for about the day before we go to bed. This simple act has been huge for us. Suddenly, in a day that feels chaotic—where nothing went according to plan and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball of defeat—I vocalize my thanks. This small act forces me to recognize that there were certainly good moments throughout my bad day, I had just missed them beforehand because I was overwhelmed by the negativity going on. I was seeing only the darkness, rather than holding onto the light. When I fall asleep reflecting and declaring my thanks, gratefulness—not defeat—wins my day.

Life is going to continue as it always does. There are twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows, laughter and mourning. These things are inevitable. In an unpredictable and often unreliable world, I can choose to have gratitude, turning to the one who created me, the one who has far greater plans for me than I could ever imagine. We are not alone. We have not been abandoned. We are not forgotten. We are God’s creations, and through him and his steadfast character, we can be eternally grateful.