Gratitude is not a declaration of “I’m okay with this.” It’s not dependent on the situation. It’s more of a constant. Gratitude is like an often-unseen source that surfaces here and there as a reminder of its presence and impact. Sort of like the water source of groundwater and aquifers.
I grew up on a farm, but I don’t know about groundwater and aquifers—just the basics: I know we tap into them to bring water to the surface to access for a variety of purposes.
Having access to water doesn’t mean our lives don’t get parched. It doesn’t mean we swim in water all the time. We don’t even notice the water underground (until there’s an issue with it). We don’t notice it, but we have access to it.
And we need it.
We go about life, dealing with the messes and challenges. We struggle. We feel pain. We hurt. We heal. We experience tough stuff—even though gratitude is available, and even when we access it. Gratitude doesn’t change our situation, but it provides nourishment or refreshment within the situation. It does the same when we’re in a beautiful place. We access gratitude, and it doesn’t change what’s around us. It reminds us of something deeper, consistent, necessary.
Gratitude is similar to forgiveness in the sense that it doesn’t make what happened okay. If you have been hurt or betrayed, forgiveness helps us heal. It doesn’t automatically build trust. In fact, trust might never be rebuilt, because that takes the cooperation of more than one person. It doesn’t take away the necessity to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. It doesn’t mean we even reconcile with a person. Forgiveness can be a part of a relational and emotional reconciliation, but it isn’t always. Sometimes it is a path into personal and even spiritual reconciliation. In fact, it is often the forgiveness that needs to come first, before any relational reconciliation—or at least alongside it.
Gratitude is similar. It doesn’t take away pain. It doesn’t take away grief. It doesn’t take away betrayal. It justifies none of that. It doesn’t say any of it is excused or acceptable. It keeps the context of the reality of what has happened and what might happen in the future while simultaneously inviting a reconciliation with joy, hope, and peace. It accesses the nourishment and refreshment that God provides us through faith and truth.
But accessing it takes some effort on our part. Gratitude is always available. It is always deep within us. God provides the access, but we are the ones who turn on the faucet and take the drink or run through the sprinkler.
When someone hurts us or takes something from us, our lives are not forever wrong because somebody isn’t willing to make something right. It feels that way at times, but it’s only God can truly heal and restore us. Only he can weave purpose through the unthinkable. Purpose might still seem inconceivable to us, and we might never be able to grasp it. That doesn’t mean God isn’t working. It doesn’t mean he isn’t redeeming and healing. It doesn’t mean he’s not cultivating new growth. Some things are never going to be okay with us, but our relationship with him accesses a gratitude that nourishes and refreshes us to find joy, hope, and peace in life alongside all the wrong.
Gratitude is my choice, but I’m not the source of it. My choice is to access what God has already provided me. Gratitude is accepting the invitation he extends every moment of my life.
Sometimes I accept the invitation. Sometimes I choose another engagement. Sometimes I don’t remember God has extended the invitation.