I love this time of the day. It is evening, the sun is beginning its slow descent behind the peaks of the neighbouring houses. I can hear the birds whistling their final melody of the day as the curtains dance in the gentle breeze. It is a time when little is required of me, and I am thankful for these small, peaceful moments. More than that, I am thankful that I am even able to feel this way. It was not always like this.
There were times in my life when I was going through such pain and heartache that it nearly consumed me and my goal was simply to make it from one breath to the next. I was pummelled by waves of grief with such force and succession that there was not time to feel anything close to thankfulness. In such moments the whole concept was foreign. Or worse, I felt like it was mocking me.
How could I thank God for my little girl when it instantly brought back all the pain of the father that she lost? How could I thank Him for my home when it was filled with such suffocating loneliness? Nothing was free from the tangles of two lives intertwined, one cut short. But a wise friend spoke into my life with some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Start small.
I still remember sitting for coffee with her, tears flowing as I told her how bitter I felt. And her words still come back to me when things seem bleak. She told me that if everything big in my life was tied to tragedy, then start by thanking God for something simple, like the fact that when you flip a switch at home, the room lights up. Or a cool breeze on a hot day. The tiny, benign details of life that we rarely notice and are therefore not tied up in swirling emotions of bigger pain.
It’s a funny thing what can happen. Like a muscle, the spirit of gratitude can strengthen and grow. Starting small can be that first step, that first exercise that opens your heart. And after some practice maybe you find you can be grateful for something bigger, more personal. With time and practice and patience a time may come when you are able to look at your life and see beauty all around you. I have read the stories of people who boldly declare their gratitude for even the events that caused their suffering. That is a beautiful thing, but I am certain that it took time and an incredible amount of perseverance for them to get there.
Like any kind of personal growth, this is often a “two steps forward, one step back” kind of transition. And sometimes it feels more like I’m taking no steps forward and five steps back. Some days I can live out Psalm 118:1 and “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” On others I relate more to the sinners of Romans 1:21 when we are told “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”. It is the first part of that verse that really catches my attention. “For although they knew God…”
That is at the crux of it. I know God. I know He is good. And whether or not I am thankful on a given day or in a given moment does not change the fact that He is good and has blessed me beyond measure. I know this, because when I seek things to be grateful for, I always, always find them. And as I do, the bitterness ebbs away and I can see more clearly to thank God for my next blessing. And the next. And the next.