Gratitude 2020

By Lindsey Bina
Pastor, Care

November is a season for gratitude. Perhaps it has something to do with Thanksgiving taking place at the end of the month – a holiday that encourages us to count our blessings and give thanks to God.

It can feel hard to talk about gratefulness when things are downright hard. How can we practice gratitude in the face of pain, suffering, injustice, and anxiety?

Diana Butler Bass has some words of wisdom to share in her book, Grateful: The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks. She writes, “Gratitude is not a psychological or political panacea, like a secular prosperity gospel, one that denies pain or overlooks injustice, because being grateful does not ‘fix’ anything. Pain, suffering, and injustice—these things are all real. They do not go away. Gratitude, however, invalidates the false narrative that these things are the sum total of human existence, that despair is the last word. Gratitude gives us a new story. It opens our eyes to see that every life is, in unique and dignified ways, graced: the lives of the poor, the castoffs, the sick, the jailed, the exiles, the abused, the forgotten as well as those in more comfortable physical circumstances. Your life. My life. We all share in the ultimate gift—life itself. Together. Right now.”

God’s grace meets us all, even in the midst of challenging circumstances. Acknowledging God’s grace with gratitude does not deny the hardships we face – instead, it acknowledges that there is more to our life than just pain and suffering.

Practicing gratitude is not only good for our spirits, it’s also good for our bodies. Practicing gratitude can…

  • Improve immune function, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Lower your risk for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and substance dependence and abuse, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
  • Improve our ability to cope with stress, according to the National Institute of Health.
  • Improve our physical well-being, as grateful people have been shown to exercise more and eat healthier.

If you have not already done so, now would be a great time to consider a regular practice of gratitude. If you need a suggestion for a practice, I can share one of mine: every Monday, I exchange emails with some dear friends with the following prompts:

  • Today, I am grateful for…
  • I feel good about…
  • I enjoyed…
  • I am looking forward to…

Another suggestion comes from the American Heart Association and uses the easy-to-remember acronym, HEART:

  • Health: What has your body allowed you to do today?
  • Eat: What nourishment did you provide your body today?
  • Activity: What did you do today that you really enjoyed?
  • Relationship: Who did you see or talk to today who brings you joy?
  • Time: There is no time like the present. How can you savor this moment?

While our lives may be far from perfect, God’s gifts of grace, love, and mercy are ever with us. By turning our attention to the goodness in our lives, we can rest more peacefully in the present, while building our resiliency for the future.