May 17 2017

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Life Hurts: How gratitude transformed me

How gratitude transformed m

How can gratitude transform a person in the midst of a hurting heart? That sounds counterintuitive. When life hurts, what’s there to be thankful about? While there is Biblical support to thank God in all circumstances  (even hard realities), it’s a tough sell in the midst of pain. An aching heart doesn’t want to be thankful, but an aching heart can be transformed by gratitude. If you want to find out more of my story in how I grew in Christ during a tough season read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

A key element

1 These 5:18 GratitudeIn Part 2, I laid the groundwork on wrestling with submitting to God’s sovereignty and accepting his love for me as perfect love.

I don’t have my heart fully submitted nor accepting, but I’ve grown. That growth has helped me step toward gratitude. I’m so thankful I decided to make thanksgiving a part of my life because it was a key element in my life transformation.

After submitting to God’s will and accepting his love, the next help to moving from paralyzed to praise is gratitude. Again, think process rather than arrival with it comes to submission, receiving God’s love, and a heart of gratitude. All three go infinitely deeper with time and intention.

Gratitude is a cure for despair. I’ve struggled with expressing gratitude for most of my life. While I was able to say “thanks,” it wasn’t part of my inner thoughts. Thinking about what is good is a discipline. Expressing thanks, especially when I didn’t feel like it, felt like a little death.

Let me explain. It wasn’t in saying the words themselves. Instead it was how I twisted the meaning of the words. If I expressed gratitude, that meant I was completely satisfied with life and had no unmet longings or desires. I didn’t know I could be grateful and still desire more.

If I had paid attention to the Psalms, I would’ve known better. The Psalms are filled with expressions of both pain and praise—at the same time.

For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.

Psalms 66:17-20 NLT

The Psalmist “cried out to him for help” and was “praising him.” Crying out for something different . . . or more . . . or for change fit together alongside of praise.

In time, I learned to journal my thanks as well as express it. Instead of stuffing my desires, I cherished them by crying out to the Lord for help. When I learned that gratitude didn’t equal a feeling of complete satisfaction, I saw with new eyes and felt more free to express a simple, heart-felt thanks both to God and to others.

How did I get there?

It’s easy to read my words and think the transformation was quick, and I’m all done growing. I’m still in the process and fighting each growth step. However, I know I’m not who I used to be. Who was I? Paralyzed by an aching heart. Feeling like I couldn’t live another day. Discouraged, bitter, and increasingly self-focused.

Who am I now? Far from perfect. I still get discouraged and self-focused. Today, I have the tools I need to find encouragement and turn my focus upward and outward. My trips to me-me-me land are much shorter.

Here are two invaluable resources that helped me:

  • A mentor. During my most difficult days, I had a mentor who reminded me of truth and challenged me when I was oblivious to faulty thinking or simply wanted a shortcut.
  • One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces (affiliate link). Her words in a daily devotional pushed me deeper into gratitude. Through her story, I found a pattern for thankfulness. While I’m not writing a daily list, the habit of thanks is more my habit.

Does life hurt for you right now?

If life isn’t what you expected, and you’re overwhelmed with an aching heart, please know that you can make it to the other side and can be transformed long before the circumstances get better. I’d love to pray for you. Please send me an email letting me know how I can pray for you. Don’t forget to sign up to receive my recent blog posts via email.

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