Gratitude During Times of Grief
“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1)
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving by offering thanks to our Lord for His many blessings. Yet, there are many families who are experiencing grief during the holiday celebrations. Some may be sick in hospital, others are away from home, while others have recently (or not so recently) lost a loved one. This naturally raises the yearning question, “How can we be thankful during times of grief?”
In Psalms 106, we are urged to give thanks to God because “his love endures forever.” When we think of enduring love, the Psalmist gives a sense that God’s love is not limited to the present moment. Rather, God’s love is also lavishly poured out into the most distant future. The psalm does not suppress the emotions of pain, sadness, and regret that Israel experienced; it reviews it. Such painful reminders are not intended to leave the readers despondent but to encourage them in the hope that even when we wish we could change the past, God’s unchanging and enduring love for us will be there in our present and future.
In speaking of God’s enduring love Ellen White pens this beautiful thought. It is only a portion of what she wrote in her paragraph, and I encourage you to read the rest of it, “All the paternal love which has come down from generation to generation through the channel of human hearts, all the springs of tenderness which have opened in the souls of men, are but as a tiny rill to the boundless ocean when compared with the infinite, exhaustless love of God. Tongue cannot utter it; pen cannot portray it.”1 May we more fully experience God’s enduring love this Thanksgiving. Grief and gratitude are meant to be shared, even and especially today.
- Can you think of a time when you experienced both sadness and gratitude?
- How does our hope in God’s enduring love affect the way we grieve?
- Are you missing someone special in your life these days? Do you feel free to share your sadness with the Lord and also your gratitude?
- Pastor Joseph Khabbaz published a newsletterReadThe Power of Gratitude
“in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
God does not ask us to be thankful for everything, but He calls us to be thankful in everything. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor sites a one-week study in which participants were asked to take five minutes to write down three things they were thankful for each day. What they were thankful for could be significant or minor; the only rule was they had to be concrete and specific. After one week the researchers were amazed by the results. This simple and succinct act of putting pen to paper to express thankfulness revealed participants were happier and had reduced levels of depression. What was even more remarkable was the lasting impact experienced well after the experiment was over. Researchers found participants were still happier, less anxious, and less depressed six months later. Who would’ve ever thought that the habit of expressing gratitude could impact your life six months from now?
It seems that when we are grateful our minds find it easier to search for the good things in our lives. Juxtapose the research with the apostle Paul’s command to give thanks, and what we find is Paul encouraging believers to make tangible expressions of God’s blessing; much like putting pen to paper. Some have incorrectly interpreted this verse to mean that God is asking us to thank Him for everything, including the things that have been harmful to us. But as we pay close attention to the verse, Paul does not say be thankful for everything but be thankful in everything. That means we may not be thankful for the trial, but we can be thankful in the trial.
As we practice gratitude, we can experience the joy that it brings to our lives, friends, family, campus, and wider community. Ellen White picks up on the power of practicing gratitude when she writes, “Gratitude deepens as we give it expression, and the joy it brings is life to soul and body.” In other words, the more we express gratitude the easier it gets and the more joy we will experience.
How is it possible to give thanks to God in everything? What specific and tangible things are you most grateful for as you look forward to Thanksgiving holidays? What you write down does not have to be a big thing, although it certainly can be. However, there is also a benefit found in sharing small things such as, “I’m thankful for the delicious Thai take-out dinner I had last night.” Or, “I’m thankful that my daughter gave me a hug.” Or, “I’m thankful that my friend complimented me.”
 Ellen Gould White, Counsels on Stewardship (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1940), 80.
- Tie a Knot13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Yukon Arctic Ultra On a frosty February…sermons.faithlife.com
This One Thing
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b–14)
When everything seems to be falling apart, focus on the one thing. On a frosty February evening, Diane Van Deren made history as the first woman to complete the Yukon Arctic Ultra. Touted as the world’s coldest and toughest race, The Yukon Arctic Ultra is a grueling 430-miler run in the dead of winter. For 10 days Diane ran across the frozen Canadian tundra. For the first 100 miles she drank no water and only slept about an hour each night. But that’s not the crazy part – Diane can’t read maps telling her where to turn. At 28-years-old she had a seizure in a car while being three weeks pregnant. As she remembers it, she felt a funny sensation that was brief. The next thing she remembered was waking up in a hospital confused wondering where she was. She was quickly sent to have an MRI where scans revealed she had epilepsy. Doctors decided they needed to remove part of her brain but in the process, they also removed her basic awareness of time. You would think that after all she had been through she would have given up, but as Franklin Roosevelt once said, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” If we are going to look beyond our circumstances, we need to know how to maintain our focus. Just as Roosevelt learned - when we reach the end of our rope, tie a knot.
In the epistle to the Philippians, the apostle Paul was imprisoned yet he chose not to focus on his circumstances. He said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Paul could have chosen to focus all his attention on his prison cell, but he chose to look beyond his circumstances and focus on God’s promise. How? By directing his thoughts to this one thing – Christ Jesus. That was Paul’s way of tying a knot at the end of a rope. Paul’s one purpose was knowing Christ and His calling, that’s what helped him move forward in the midst of trouble.
“The great purpose that constrained Paul to press forward in the face of hardship and difficulty should lead every Christian worker to consecrate himself wholly to God’s service. Worldly attractions will be presented to draw his attention from the Saviour, but he is to press on toward the goal, showing to the world, to angels, and to men that the hope of seeing the face of God is worth all the effort and sacrifice that the attainment of this hope demands.”
Is there something taking your attention from focusing on the one thing – Christ Jesus? What one thing do you want to apply from this passage in your life today?
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