Expressing gratitude through suffering is not neglecting your suffering; it’s choosing to give thanks in spite of it.
If you’re like me, the last thing you think about when you face a loss, disappointment or heartbreak is gratitude. Loss and gratitude in the same space feels weird, right? I tend to take the opposite route of gratitude, like isolation, worrying, or moping straight to the chocolate chip cookies. However, as I’ve processed the importance of expressing gratitude in all seasons, I’ve realized a dry season is when we need to remember to express gratitude the most. Why? Because expressing gratitude is not intuitive during suffering, but I think it’s our ticket back to nourishment and joy.
So, what can we learn from Jesus on how to face suffering, and how can we connect it to gratitude? After reflecting on scripture, here is what I found.
1. Jesus didn’t hide his pain.
Jesus didn’t cover up his anguish, or try to make it look like he was cool, calm and collected before he was arrested and nailed to a cross. If anyone “needed” to look like they had their life together, it was the guy claiming to be the Messiah, right? However, we can read in Luke about how Jesus felt every bit of fear as he faced God’s will for his life.
Friends, if you’re suffering, please know it is okay to not be cool, calm and collected all of the time. Let yourself process. Let yourself feel the emotions, and when it’s time for you to make a move, know you can take steps toward the Lord through prayer. As we invite grace and gratitude in, relief and joy follow.
1. Talk with God.
When Jesus was in anguish, he prayed more earnestly. How can we use prayer to fully depend on God in a season of suffering? When we don’t have the energy or know the words to say, we can rely on the Holy Spirit, our advocate, to intercede.
2. God sends angels.
God didn’t take away Jesus’ suffering, or His will for him to die on a cross, but he sent an angel to be with him and to strengthen him. God sent help. I’ve never seen an actual angel on this earth (although that would be cool), but I’ve seen friends and family who might as well have wings. We don’t have to express gratitude for our suffering if we are not mentally or emotionally there yet, but we can start moving toward joy by expressing gratitude for our angels. We can humbly, graciously invite people into our pain.
Our angels are friends and family who show up; who come by our sides to strengthen and encourage us. Our angels have listening ears, not “fix it” ears. They might cook you dinner, or simply sit with you while you cry. Sometimes the wisest thing an angel can do is say nothing. An angel might even be a stranger who offers a smile or holds a door for you.
Expressing gratitude for our angels is one way to shed light on joy again; it’s a way to renew our spirits and rejoice despite the dryness. God might not take away your pain, but He can send helpers along the way. Who are the helpers you can express gratitude for?
Expressing gratitude has the power to open our eyes to the goodness God still has for us. Hopefully, eventually, your suffering will be something you are grateful for, too.
Do you tend to hide your pain? Why or why not?
If Jesus didn’t feel the need to pretend to have it all together, why should we?
If you are in a dry season, what can you express gratitude for? What is on your First and Ten?
If you are in a season of abundance, how can you be an angel to someone who is in a season of dryness?