Cultivating a sense of gratitude may come a little harder in 2020. My husband did not plan to retire this year. However, like so many other Americans, he lost his job last March due to COVID-19, a disease no one had heard of a year ago. No friends or family members had yet lost health or lives to this first great plague of the 21st century. We traveled freely, shopped when and where we wanted, and we would have laughed at the idea that masks would be required for daily activities.
Gratitude is difficult to come by when life grows hard. Even in the best of times, life often withholds what we most desire: family, aspirations, dreams, jobs, education opportunities, and answers to prayer. The holidays can be especially difficult when we see others enjoying those blessings we most long to possess. Even without large family gatherings, this year’s holiday season will make people more aware than ever of what they lack. This time of year sees an increase in suicide because people lose all hope.
Cultivating a Sense of Gratitude in Times of Loss
In the Book of Genesis, Joseph’s youthful boasting and the partiality of his father, Jacob, caused deep resentment in the hearts of his older brothers. Hate led them to plot against him and sell him into slavery, losing everyone and everything he held dear. For all intents and purposes, he died to his old life and woke up to a changed world where nothing was familiar.
The trials of Joseph provide a powerful example of how believers in Christ should react when life is cruel. There is no record that Joseph complained when others failed to keep their word, when he suffered at the hands of others, or when he felt hopeless and alone. I’m certain he grew discouraged, but he kept his focus right. He took his hurt to the Lord and remained filled with hope and faith when it seemed God had forgotten him.
Cultivating a Sense of Gratitude Turns Our Eyes Toward God
The story of Joseph demonstrates the power of faith in God and prayer when life turns cruel. Peace and contentment lie in leaving our situation in the hands of God, not in taking our anger out on our loved ones. Joseph’s ability to forgive the suffering inflicted when his brothers sold him into slavery came because he knew that God, not man, controlled his destiny. He focused on the needs of those in authority over him and those who lived in captivity with him, and, by reaching out to others, ended up improving his own lot.
Joseph voices one of the most powerful “but God’s” of scripture when he is reunited with his brothers. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
Gratitude Brings Peace
When seeking to cultivate gratitude, recognize God as the author of your circumstances. Trust Him for the outcome. Ask Him for peace to accept things as they are. Give thanks even in small things.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
© Norma Gail Thurston Holtman, November 17, 2020
Thanksgiving Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay; Freedom Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay; Yellow Image by Danie Bester from Pixabay