Gratitude is the Foundation of Our Faith
It is easy for us to feel gratitude for the blessings in our lives, but it is even more important for us to feel gratitude for every challenge that has shaped us, for every painful circumstance that we have been through. As we follow Jesus, as He heals us of all these challenges, we begin to see the lessons they have taught us, the direction they moved us to, the impact they had on our lives. And, as we are being healed, we can also feel the gratitude arise in us for what these have taught us.
It is not easy for us Americans to even accept the challenges that come to us. We are taught that we are in charge of our lives, so we resent anything that interrupts our plans or keeps us from accomplishing our agendas. For a long time in my life I had to know why something was happening before I could accept anything into my life. But I finally discovered that the whys didn’t matter. The challenge was in my life and that I needed to deal with it. Amazingly, when I gave up having to understand why something was now in my life, and just dealt with it, my suffering when way down. Somehow my resistance was creating all that suffering. If I could just deal with whatever was already there, then I was much better off.
We so easily forget that God is in charge of our lives, that He is with us every step of the way, and that He will help us deal with what comes to us. Also, these situations that we didn’t choose are all meant to teach us something that we need to know. Once we can accept what has happened to us and adapt to it, then we can begin to see what it is there to teach us. All that happens to us in our lifetimes will shape our lives and, hopefully, open us up more and more to see God helping us deal with and learn from each thing.
As we move into gratitude for these seemingly negative occurrences in our lives, as each succeeding challenge that comes no long brings up denial or refusal to accept, our energy remains normal, our ability to deal with this comes with God’s help, and we can welcome it into our lives in peace. This is a huge change for us and a healing one.
Later, still following Jesus, we discover what our purpose is, and it is often based on the suffering or challenges that we have been through. As we have resolved those difficulties, we are often called to help others with the same challenges. And this connects us even deeper to gratitude to God for what has been in our lives. There is joy and love and peace and patience in us when we help others deal with the same issues that we have overcome—with God’s help! We join in a community of like-minded people who have endured the same things and draw strength from each of them and reflect it back to them. And so, we end the cycle of suffering and it turns into us giving ourselves out to others. What joy and blessings that brings to us. Here is how and when we see the fruit of the Spirit working in our lives—love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and humility (Galatians 5:22-23).
What we experience now in ourselves is God’s presence in what we say and do. His direction/suggestions for everything that we do and when and how we do it. His peace that carries us through thick and thin. His love and forgiveness for the people we meet. Unity with God and living out our purpose in the world is the goal of following Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!
Questions to Ponder Over the Week: How much gratitude do I feel for what has happened in my life? Am I still struggling with resentments and grief over my challenges? Can I begin to see the lesson each challenging circumstance was to teach me? Am I at the place where I can help others through the same sort of pain and suffering?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can roll with all the punches, knowing that He is always on our side, supporting, healing, and leading us in the direction of His plan for us. May we be able to help others, too.
Check out my two websites: patsaidadams.com and deepeningyourfaith.com.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will email it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.
 In my own case, the worst thing I ‘’ve been through was 11 years of my childhood spent in a hell-fire-and-damnation church. When I grew up, God to me was a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong, any sin. I was out of the church in my late 20s, but having that capricious and vengeful image of God drove me to seek a God I could live with and love. In my 40’s I gave my life to Christ, having seen that there were other interpretations of the Bible than what I had been taught. And as I look back on my life, I can see His footprints everywhere—in that church, in all the steps I took to leave it, in inviting me to life in love for Him, in the reading I did of other religions and the saints of the church which gave me a wholly different view of who God is. I see His steps in my love for helping people in their spiritual lives, in racing to sign up for spiritual direction training when I heard they were training lay people. And now, all the writing I do is from the lens of a spiritual director—how do I, how do we live this life in Christ? It’s the most fulfilling work, other than being a mother, that I have ever done. Now I clearly see the arc of my life starting in that first church and God leading me into a wholly new relationship with Him to my purpose. I am sure that I would never have become a spiritual director without that early awful experience.