Gratitude: UR Doing it Wrong

iStock 000002309048XSmalla Gratitude: UR Doing it WrongSometimes you guys tell me that I’m being too self deprecating when I say that I’m spiritually inept. Behold: I can’t even figure out how to be grateful.

The theme in my prayer life over the past few weeks has been gratitude. Over and over again I kept feeling prompted to work on cultivating an “attitude of gratitude,” so I jumped right in. And it was easy. As a modern American, living in a kind of luxury never before seen in human history, the words just rolled right off my lips.

“Thank you, Lord, for hot water! For abundant food! For easy access to medicine! For a cozy bed! For soft sheets! For my air conditioner! For a reliable vehicle! For my crock pot!…” and so on. It sounds like this should be a spiritually fruitful exercise, right? Nay. Here’s the problem:

If you were to ask me in an unguarded moment to complete the sentence “My joy comes from the ________,” my answer would probably be “air conditioner.” I’m not quite there with Brother Yun, who was so detached from worldly comforts that he could find great peace and delight in the Lord, even after being tortured and thrown in a metal box. If an evil regime hostile to Catholic bloggers were to overthrow the government tomorrow and start a reign of persecution, I’m not sure I would be ready to risk losing all my nice luxuries for the sake of the Gospel. When our refrigerator was broken for a few days, I was tempted by the sin of despair. In other words: I’m really attached to my material possessions.

(On a side note, this is why I’ve often thought that Gnosticism is a tempting heresy. In many ways it would be easier to cultivate an attitude of hating all material things than to find the balance of appreciating them but not over-valuing them.)

So, long story short, my recent efforts at gratitude seem to be making me more attached to the world. The other day I was giving thanks for feeling good during this third trimester of pregnancy…then I had a few days where I felt absolutely miserable. While I was feeling bad I found myself with a rich cornucopia of things to complain about, since I’d just recently put some serious thought into all the advantages of not feeling like an overtired, nauseated blob. When I attempted to unite my suffering with Christ’s and seek joy in the Lord despite my circumstances, I kept getting distracted by all those thoughts about how niiiiiiiiiiice it was to feel good. So I guess my question is:

For those of us who tend to be attached to worldly comforts anyway, how do you give thanks for them without becoming more attached to them?

And if you’d like to take a break from my mess and read something spiritually enriching, go check out this post by The Philosopher Mom where she answers the question “Am I happy?” despite facing postpartum depression, financial stress and chronic pain.

(Title shamelessly ripped off from Dorian’s recent guest post.)

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45 Responses to “Gratitude: UR Doing it Wrong”
  1. The Ranter says:

    A friend of mine relays a story of a priest friend who has since passed on. He would thank God for everything…even the most mundane things. At a red stoplight: “Thank you, Jesus and Mary for helping me stop at this stoplight.” “Thank you, Jesus and Mary for helping me say Mass.” etc. etc. It seems kind of silly, but it is a good way to cultivate gratitude.
    The Ranter recently posted..Class

  2. Wow, great question! Had never really thought of it that way. I wonder if the question couldn’t also be valid for non-material things… like husband, kids, people’s affection, health, etc. We should also be detached from those things, even though they are more important than material things. But maybe the most important thing about gratitude is knowing that EVERYTHING comes from God and he gives and takes away, but he is enough and will always provide…?

  3. Claire says:

    Perhaps in also giving thanks for the things that aren’t so great, but have the potential to help us grow. Last fall I was really sick, and this was after my kids had all been really sick in close succession. I’ll spare the gory details, but after hours of sitting on the bathroom floor one night, I found myself feeling genuine gratitude toward God. It was surprising, but the sentiment was real. I was thankful for that awful night because in my terrible weakness, I only had one place to turn. The comforts of our modern world make it so easy to be on that wide path heading toward the wide gate. Those who have nothing have an easier time seeing the narrow gate – they don’t have anything else to distract them. But all our conveniences and comforts make the wide gate seem so much more appealing because we’re not often reminded of our need for Him. That moment, for me, was a stark reminder of my need and I was grateful for it.

    So maybe there’s something to cultivating gratitude not just in the good things that are easy to be grateful for, but in the things that cause us suffering? Just something I’ve been thinking about lately.
    Claire recently posted..Single parenting weekend

    • Gloria says:

      I love this. I had the same kind of winter with sickness during lent, and then I injured myself during Holy Week! It really did feel like lent this year… ;-) Sometimes it is annoying these things happen–I suspect because of my stubbornness, that God is forced to use suffering to shape me. After time passes and I see how I have been humbled or see other positive effects from it, I have even wondered why God is not as generous with other people I meet (usually with a concerning amount of smugness or carelessness), giving them things to suffer through!

    • Debbie says:

      Claire, I agree. I have had many bad things happen in the last 8 years. I have been thanking God for them as they have brought me to my knees.

  4. amy2boys says:

    Timely post for me, as I’ve started a gratitude journal. I write things down like – school book fairs, rain when the sun is shining, little boys who call me mommy. I am totally thankful for my dishwasher though!

    I wonder like you do about how well I would muster it if really challenged by loss of material ease. I like to think I will fall on my knees and REALLY turn to God then, but I know from personal experience that I can easily turn away, without even being conscious of it, when I’m pushed.

    My efforts at a gratitude journal are to help me keep the little things in front of me, to create a habit of counting them, so that big or little, I am not taking anything for granted.
    amy2boys recently posted..April 28

  5. hmmm.
    I think this is another reason I need a spiritual director. I find myself chasing my tail on such questions (am I doing it right?) lately, when I thought I really knew.

    But, I guess, when we think we know, we get complacent. And that’s probably the only time we’re really doing it “wrong”.
    FullSpectrumMom recently posted..By His Stripes I have Been Healed

  6. Emily (a.k.a. Smoochagator) says:

    I have to laugh at this post, because it reminds me of the week, two summers ago, that my central air, my laptop, and my coffeemaker died. For some reason, it was the coffeemaker that made me (metaphorically) shake my fist at the heavens and scream, “Why, God? Why?????” I mean, I really felt like my suffering was akin to Job’s. YEAH. What does that say about how spoiled I am?

    And honestly, I have that same reaction every time I go through a little bit of hardship. I’m behind a few months on my bills, oh, it is HARD TO BE ME. Never mind that there are people all over America without jobs or homes or food. *sigh* I think that your spiritual ineptitude is something MANY of us share. We forget how good we’ve got it, and our reactions to more severe trials and tests might embarrass us.

    But – then again – I think this is why God doesn’t call EVERYONE to preach the gospel in a nation that’s violently hostile to His word. Not because we’re too “spiritually inept,” but because we were not equipped for that. We weren’t equipped because we weren’t called. Make sense? Jen, think of your own trials that you have had to endure in answering God’s call on your life. In the vocation of wife and mother, you’ve gone through several high-risk pregnancies and all the fears and physical ails and financial troubles that go with them. Somebody may look at you and say, “I just couldn’t do it. How does she do it?” but you don’t think it’s anything special. That’s because you were equipped for that particular calling, and God gives you joy and peace in the midst of what some would consider very difficult circumstances.

  7. Christina says:

    There was a meeting once where we were asked to list one good and one bad thing that happened that day. My friend objected to saying anything was bad, because God only gives us good things. After a discussion we decided that it would be better to say, “This is something I didn’t want, but I know God gave it for a reason. It has [helped me grow/shown me the love of my neighbor/taught me to trust in God alone/etc].”

    You could simply add, “Thank you Lord for this [bad thing]!” Describing why it was good that [pleasant object X] was taken away would tune your mind to God’s frequency, helping you to see things from eternity.

    There is also the concept that all the “pleasant” gifts are meant to remind us of God’s love, so that when trial hits we are not overwhelmed. Like the transfiguration coming before the crucifixion, the beautiful sunset might come before the stormy night. Then you can look at it as an oasis before crossing the desert, and rejoice in the water knowing soon it’ll be taken away.

    • Alexis says:

      I think that this is a great point. In my own (limited!) experience with suffering I think it has been my experience of God’s little goodnesses that I fall back on when the pain wipes out any current feelings of gratitude. And I am forced to say to Him – as the apostles said – “Lord, where else shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” In great suffering we say this because we have acknowledged his gifts to us over and over again in our regular life.
      On the other side of the coin – the detachment that we need to have from earth and it’s pleasures…
      1. In great suffering you gain perspective and suddenly detachment isn’t so difficult – or even an issue. You entire job is simply to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”.
      2. But, if we are blessed to not be in a place of great suffering then all we have to work with are little discomforts or disappointments. While I agree that we should attempt to express gratitude for the broken coffee maker I think that it is also OK to shake the fist. We are in a relationship with the Guy. We can have a conversation about it. Let Him know that this is frustrating and make sure that you end on a note of surrender. I think he wants to share the little ups and downs. Even He complained about being thirsty on a regular basis.
      We are weak and needy creatures. We know this, He knows this – by having the conversation we are not surprising Him. So I think a little complaining can actually go a long way to deepening our relationship with Him.
      Alexis recently posted..Easter Morning

  8. Ask for help? “Lord, teach me to have a thankful heart. Help me let go of my attachment to material things. And, um, if you can do it without a Job-like concatenation of events, that would be great.”
    Julia at LotsaLaundry recently posted..A moms game of 20 or more questions

  9. Kat says:

    I guess it can be easy to get attached to worldly comforts. I think a cure for that could be to travel to a place where there are very few comforts, where people look to the Comforter Himself for comfort rather than the physical. Or to become someone who doesn’t rely on worldy comforts yourself. Not by thinking about how to do it or by anaylzing in your mind how to not be attached, but by actually DOING IT. Literally give up or give away what you find yourself relying on for comfort.

  10. I think it is quite alright to find some happiness in the air conditioner- but we should remember it is a gift from God and we deserve nothing (easier said than done)

  11. Anna says:

    By paying more attention to the giver, and less to the gift.

    Once upon a time a boy named Mark had an uncle named Charlie who came into town for Mark’s birthday. Uncle Charlie gave Mark a cool toy ship as a birthday present. Mark loved the ship so much, he spent all day playing with it. At the end of the day, he realized he had hardly said five words to Uncle Charlie, who now had to leave town again.

    The moral of the story: focus your gratitude more on the one doing the giving than on the gift itself.
    Anna recently posted..PicVids- April 2011- 2nd Edition

  12. Michelle says:

    Well, I’m definitely a rookie when it comes to this sort of thing, but one practice I try to be mindful of is the, “fake it ’til you make it” attitude. Sometimes just saying, “Thank you,” when your car breaks down 10 miles from home in the middle of July when you don’t have cell service (true story!) is enough to change your attitude. I think it’s sort of like the Mass – when we come, we don’t always feel grateful for the incredible gift that it is, but by saying thank you anyway, we remind ourselves that we truly are unworthy to receive Him.
    Michelle recently posted..“Do whatever He tells you”

  13. Patricia says:

    Read “Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom” by the late Fr. Thomas Dubay — it will help you put attachment to material things into perspective. I found it to be a life-changing book. God bless! ICXC+NIKA

  14. Cari says:

    This doesn’t address your question, but rather the comment you made that

    “So, long story short, my recent efforts at gratitude seem to be making me more attached to the world. The other day I was giving thanks for feeling good during this third trimester of pregnancy…then I had a few days where I felt absolutely miserable. While I was feeling bad I found myself with a rich cornucopia of things to complain about, since I’d just recently put some serious thought into all the advantages of not feeling like an overtired, nauseated blob”

    What happens when you take a vase that has an inch of nasty, slimy, stink water at the bottom of it and pour clean water in? Answer: all the nasty, slimy stink water bursts forth from the vase as it is filled with something clean and pure.

    So it is with our souls. You’ve asked God for the grace of gratitude. He’s answering. All the “backsliding” you think you’re experiencing as a result of this request is the stink water leaving your soul.

  15. Patty says:

    Made me think of a blog I read recently. Perhaps this will help. http://kathleenscatholic.blogspot.com/2011/04/cleaning-out-house-sing-along.html

  16. Umm, I’m RIGHT WITH YOU! But I’m experimenting with detachment in a few areas for Lent I tried to a) shut up about complaining, b) think about someone I love when I was feeling miserable and offering it up, c) ask St. John of the Cross to help me understand that getting “detached” from the world is a necessary step to getting more “attached” to Christ.

  17. Nicole says:

    Our women’s group just did a mini-retreat focusing on “Choosing Gratitude” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I think she does a great job of explaining how to lead a grateful life, for the good and the bad that God allows.

  18. Jason says:

    I had to learn this the hard way. God moved me from the US to Paraguay for a year. My cousin says I took literally Matthew 19:21, but in reality I only sold the stuff I didn’t want. While I was there, I realized how little I could actually live with. I thought I was doing it well with just my computer and mp3 player as amenities, but when I started dating the girl who later became my wife, she told me her mother said I was vain. I asked the one person who knew me the best, my otherwise homeless, teenage housemate, what made me vain. He said I needed to learn to live more simply. I couldn’t even figure out how I could possibly live more simply!

    When you spend over a year of your life without a TV, couch, egyptian blend cotton sheets, a decent oven, and – yes – an air conditioner, you realize what you can really live without. And when all of your time is spent around people who would have to work for MONTHS to be able to afford a digital camera, you begin to be thankful for everything you have. You realize that most people don’t have even the simplest stuff (like a solid roof over their head and walls without holes in them). You have no choice but to take into stock all of the things you take for granted that really are blessings, gifts from God, that could just as easily have been given to someone else.

    I was floored when my students would pray thanking God for jackets in the winter. Some only had one. I currently have 14 in my closet (I’m even ashamed to write that). Small challenge to all the readers: count how many jackets and pairs of shoes you have.

    To answer your question simply, realizing that everything we have beyond what we absolutely need are gifts from God is what keeps me unattached to my stuff. Sure, there are some things I’d be sad not to have, but I’ve given God the opportunity to provide for me enough that I know beyond a doubt that He will. But also realize that sometimes we go through periods of need so that we can really understand how many wants we really have.

    Great, thought-provoking post, Jennifer. Thank you!
    -j

  19. Wow… very thought-provoking post as always. I must admit that it really called me out on some things I need to work on. I tried to focus on gratitude during Lent, and found it relatively easy to be grateful for a great husband, three (currently healthy) kids, a garden that is growing, finally having a house of our own, etc. The question you ask about what brings joy is very telling though!
    A year and a half ago when a pregnancy ended in an emergency c-section that was almost fatal to my son and I, and then a stay in NICU for him, I found gratitude almost impossible. My thoughts were much more “Why, God, why?” than gratitude and joy. I was talking to a friend lately and she mentioned a similar struggle. We talked about the fact that while we, as adults, can eventually come to a point of truly accepting that God’s will be done, and even being grateful in trials, realizing that we grow from them… it is much more difficult to accept that God can also work through the trials of our children.
    I often think of Our Lady and her beautiful acceptance of God’s will, from the moment of her “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord” to her sorrow as she stood at the foot of the Cross. Her model, and that of so many great saints, is what I pray for the grace to strive for, though I realize I’ve got a really long way to go!

  20. Lucy says:

    There are some really great comments! And this is a really good question. I have a hard time being grateful, especially being a pessimistic, melancholy, glass-half-empty type of person. But one thing I try (TRY) to remember is that the Bible says to “give thanks in all things.” It’s a hard saying. But I have experienced suffering and have known the amazing grace that comes with gratefulness during suffering. It’s the gratefulness when I’m not suffering that seems to be more difficult. Go figure. I guess I’m just good in a crisis. :)

    I don’t struggle as much with material things as I used to. I mean, I have way too many of them, but I’ve been poor and was raised by packrats and so tend to keep things in case I need them so I don’t waste money buying them again. But I am learning to hold things more loosely. I give away tons of stuff. And the freedom is more enjoyable than the owning ever was. That’s actually one big thing that has helped me be more grateful for the things I do have: recognizing that no matter how much we enjoy stuff, whatever we own, owns us.

    You’ve already had a few book suggestions, but I HIGHLY recommend Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I’m on my third reading, this time with a book club. I have never encountered a book that helped me to think more gratefully than this one. It also inspired me to read For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann. She quotes him in the book. I had tried to read Fr. Schmemann’s book a few years ago, but I wasn’t ready (I’m Eastern Orthodox, so you’d think I’d have read it ages ago!). But in it he talks about the Eucharist being gratefulness and that living in gratefulness is living the Eucharist. Good stuff. But Ann’s book is a great “gateway” to that type of thinking (she’s an evangelical, btw). And as a farming, homeschooling mom of six, she’s more accessible to someone like me. I mean, I don’t farm or have six kids, but I do have a few potted plants and I have three kids, so that’s close enough! LOL!

    And you are NOT that spiritually inept, in my opinion. I’ve been a Christian all my life and have been Orthodox for 10 years and I learn so much from you. I don’t mean to induce pride, but your honest questions challenge me. To not ask questions is much more inept than to ask. So, thanks for being so honest. I realize I don’t know you in person, but I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and read blogs of others who know you. :)

  21. Marie says:

    Humble opinion — can’t do it that way.
    Have you ever noticed that being frugal when you have a ton of money is a lot harder than being frugal when you’re broke? A lot, lot harder.
    Priorities change as circumstances do, insight comes about through experience. So you can use reason to try to obtain the proper attitude of gratitude towards your A/C. But in fact, what you want to do is appreciate it as the luxury it is, but you don’t experience it as a luxury, but as a staple. So, let’s say you lived in a village in the middle of an impoverished equatorial nation for two years. Then came to the U.S. and stayed at a hotel with A/C for a week. Then back to the village for two years. The appreciation you would have for that A/C would be huge, and not sullied by resentment of its absence if the move back was indisputable. But if you thought you could leave the village in live with A/C, you’d be inclined to covet that A/C even if you chose to give it up.
    Being grateful is a choice, but it’s a choice made within other choices. I think the only way we can be truly grateful is to accept what God gives us to do, and then take advantage of those genuine opportunities for gratitude that come from it, instead of trying to mine out instances of gratitude throughout the day.

  22. Amos Hendrix says:

    “For those of us who tend to be attached to worldly comforts anyway, how do you give thanks for them without becoming more attached to them?”

    I think you’ve answered your own question. When you’re attached to temporary things, your gratitude can only be temporary and thus limited. You likely care about those temporary things a lot less than you believe. If you were to lose them, you’d make due and accept it the way most of the poor do now. So being overly grateful about those things is artificial and forced.

    But not everything is temporary. Each one of us is a great might not have been. Each one of your 4 children might never have been born. You might never have met your husband. If you were to lose any of them, you’d be torn into shreds. It doesn’t matter if they move to the other side of the world in an inaccessible location of the rest of you life or when they pass beyond the veil, it still hurts. They are important, because they are eternal and contain the image of God. It is not wrong to be extremely grateful for each of those treasures and the treasure of your own life for having the privilege of having access to the possibility of such gratitude.

  23. Elizabeth K. says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been trying to put my finger on why, every time I try to do the gratitude journal thing, I fail so spectacularly. After reading your post, I just realized that this time around it’s because I’m not sure that the things that I have–the material possessions–are really gifts. I know that sounds nuts, but here’s the thing: if I assume that God gave me enough food, and water, and a nice house, etc, am I also assuming that He did NOT give those things to someone else? I feel guilty–it feels wrong–to look at my middle class lifestyle and say it comes from God. Because why do I have this–and some people have NOTHING?? Sure, I work, my husband work, but we are also the beneficiaries of our families and a system set up to benefit us. It’s easier for me to see material things, even the ones I like, as the result of a fallen world–as temptations rather than blessings. Or as somehow neutral. And yes–to NOT say thank you for these material gifts also seems to be the height of arrogance and ungratefulness. So I just set it aside, reaping none of the spiritual benefits I read so much about from the gratitude folks. Does anyone else struggle with this??

    • Elizabeth, I’ve tried to figure things out like that myself, and what I’ve come up with is that God gives us things like that *specifically so we can bless others*. For example, He gives me enough money for food so that I can buy extra and keep it in my car to give to the homeless guy I see on the street. He gives me a home so I can invite people in who need a place to go. He puts it on my heart to give several of my jackets to people who don’t have them.

      My wife struggles with the same thing. She grew up very poor, by even Paraguayan standards. But she had 10 pencils. When she went to work at a public school as part of her studies and found that her 20 students had FOUR pencils between them, she gave her pencils to her students. She struggled with coming to the US because of the abundance we have here. She says it’s not fair for her to live this way (we still live very modestly according to US standards) while so many others have no hope to live this way.

      That’s when we ask God what He would have us do with the things He allows us to have in order to be a blessing to someone else.

      -j
      Jason @ FindingMyFitness recently posted..Cheat Day Postgame- It Doesn’t Really Have To Suck

  24. Katarina says:

    WHatever it is that you are thankful for – offer to share it with someone else who would love to have it ( except hour husband of cos ! )

  25. Found that St. John of the Cross quote for you! It will make you laugh!!!

    “It is plain that the appetites are wearisome and tiring. They resemble little children, restless and hard to please, always whining to their mother for this thing or that, and never satisfied.” (the Ascent of Mount Carmel, pg 132)

  26. Carla says:

    When I read this post, I recalled a series by a male blogger who decided to seek out an exorcist who was a cloistered monk to help purge him from some yucky stuff in his past….

    He was very surprised to see a quite overweight, chain smoking guy, thinking this monk would be rail-thin and vice- free from his hours of prayer and battles with the devil…

    But remember God is a loving Father….he wants to give us what we NEED at each moment…I thought that God probably allowed this very holy man the indulgence of a few earthly pleasure (smoking, overeating) since he was involved with such a difficult and critical exorcism ministry…

    So Jen, you are going through a high-risk pg where you give yourself shots in the stomach, for goodness sake!! The Lord has given you air conditioning the same way a lover brings his beloved a rose…for the sake of sheer gratuitous love! Should you not “love” the rose?? Of couse not…you will think of your beloved every time you see it on the table…

    Don’t worry about attachment…as long as when you put your feet up in your cool house when it is 90 outside, you remember to sigh “thank you my Jesus!” to your beloved, that is what he wants of you at that moment…you are doing his Will with a grateful heart…

  27. Andrea says:

    Read a little book called “Power in Praise” by Merlin Carothers. It’s a classic from the 1970s, but it’s still inspiring. The message is rejoice in the Lord always, and for all things. Not just the air conditioning but the humidity, not just the third trimester but also the first trimester. We thank God for everything because we trust that he brings good out of every circumstance, and because this discipline of praise releases his power. It sounds outrageous at first, but it can be life-changing.

    • Amanda Rose says:

      I love that book! It was a real inspiration to me as a new Catholic. Gave the suffering that I had experienced thus far in life new meaning and has guided me since then, too.

  28. Brian says:

    I’ve resolved to include God in everything that’s going on inside of me whether it’s worthy of him or not. Otherwise, I’ll be waiting until I’ve forgiven x, y, and z, or until I’ve cleared this or that spiritual hurdle. To make up for the ingratitude that I more often than not find inside myself, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary, or, as circumstances permit, Mass or adoration. I think trying to be grateful is good, but when this fails as it so often does, we have to invite God to be with us in our ingratitude, teusting that he, in his humility, is nonplussed, or not embarassed by what he finds. God’s humility consistently outdoes our unreadiness for him.

  29. Claire2 says:

    Wow. What Brian said. I read through all the comments looking for the one that would speak the real truth and there it is. Thanks.

  30. Jackie W says:

    I try to do the same and be grateful to God for what I have but I also try to make sure that I do without…so maybe go a day without the air-conditioning now this might not work for you (I’m single so it’s only me that suffers the discomfort). Same with TV, facebook, wine, or treats the more I appreciate them I try to “fast” from them from time to time to remind myself that I do not need them although I certainly do like them! And occasionally pray before I use them to ensure I’m not putting it before God.

    I do also feel that if you are worried about not becoming too attached that is half the battle it is more the things we don’t worry about that we should.

  31. Nancy says:

    I remember something from “The Hiding Place,” by Corrie ten Boom that speaks to the nature of gratitude. When Corrie and her sister Betsy were in a concentration camp, their barracks were horribly infested with fleas. After much complaining, they decided they needed to thank God even for the fleas. Meanwhile, they used their time in the barracks well: they were able to hold Bible studies for the women in there, and many women came to know that Christ was their savior during that time.

    Later, they discovered why their Bible study was able to go on undetected. The camp guards knew about the fleas, and they avoided the barracks like the plague because of them!

    That story humbles me, and reminds me that God has a purpose for even the nasty things in my life, or the tragic ones.

  32. Amanda Rose says:

    I think that with gratitude we need to focus more on Who were are being grateful to rather than what we are being grateful for. Perhaps you are spending so much time relishing the good instead of the One who gave the good in trying to work up really good grateful feelings?

    And consider also, that maybe gratitude is like forgiveness – a decision rather than a feeling. Ignore the feelings and keep focusing on choosing to praise and bless the Lord. The feelings can do whatever they like…we can control our wills. Meaning, of course you will feel miserable after “losing” the good you had been gratefully enjoying! That is natural!

    We have to move into the super-natural right from where we are, offer it up, unite it to Christ, praise Him that He is always good even though we feel miserable.

    That’s my opinion, at least. For what it’s worth…and I will try to practice it right now with my own little pain, praising Him for that which is good even though I wish my elbow wouldn’t hurt so painfully badly and I feel weak and helpless. But weak is not bad, then we need Him more.

    Each “failure” lets us fall closer to Him and allows us in our weakness to submit to His embrace as He picks us back up. Have hope! You are moving in the right direction!

  33. Detachment from physical things comes naturally with greater attachment to God. St. Thomas tells us that we can’t effectively get rid of a sin without cultivating the opposite virtue, and I believe this is a similar spiritual “law.” The key to change is to focus on the good that you want, in this case, attachment to God.

  34. Detachment from physical things comes naturally with greater attachment to God. St. Thomas tells us that we can’t effectively get rid of a sin without cultivating the opposite virtue, and I believe this is a similar spiritual “law.” The key to change is to focus on the good that you want, in this case, attachment to God.

    A concrete example could be, while enjoying air conditioning, to be grateful for God’s constant care for you in the form of the cool air. Then, if (when!) the darn machine breaks, you look for, and are grateful for, the other ways God is lovingly caring for you.

  35. Have you read 1000 Gifts yet by Ann Voskamp?

    I ran into her post on giving thanks a few years back and it made a whole lot of sense to me. To be specific in my thanks, rather than paint it with a broad brush is like savoring the goodness even more. IT’s the difference between eating an ice cream cone slowly and tasting every bite versus chomping it down while thinking of something else in a way that leaves you hungry for another one a minute later, because you didn’t really notice it the first time around and rather than a living, vivid, memory, it vague and hazy and you remember it being good but only in a way that makes you need to taste it again.

    Before that I was wuite bad at being thankful, honestly. I was a complaining whining, self pitying fool. Oddly enough, the discipline of thanks is what made tragedy bearable. When I had a miscarriage 2 years ago it changed my perspective from “Why me?” to “Why not me?” in a way that allowed me to let go of self pity.

    I could truly give thanks, even in the midst of that very real pain, that I had 3 healthy children already, that I had gone so long without experiencing that pain that so many friends had gone through over and over again. The discipline of gratitude sustained me. Even when I cried for days on end the habit of finding something to savor, some moment of goodness, was ingrained. It would have been a much different experience for me without it.

    You can read some of what I wrote at the time if you search for the miscarriage tag on my site.

    BUt I think the real shift came when I realized that I’m not owed anything, that every single good thing is a gift. that is what shifted in me. I wrote it here I once was blind

    Maybe that made sense?

  36. jeffguindon says:

    Gratitude does not have to be complex.

    Be grateful for each breath that you breathe and the love in your heart.

    Sometimes we are so very hard on ourselves, detachment comes with peace of heart.

  37. jeffguindon says:

    Gratitude does not have to be complex.

    Be grateful for each breath that you breathe and the love in your heart.

    Sometimes we are so very hard on ourselves, detachment comes with peace of heart.

  38. I recently finished reading Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, and I was struck with her writing of the “sin of ingratitude”. I struggle with this EVERY DAY. One of my friends in my bible study spoke of her recent confession when our parish priest told her not to fall prey to the “sin of disappointment.” For me, it is the same sin, and has to do with self-pride which kills joy.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith recently posted..7 Quick Takes Friday Volume 34

  39. Kayla says:

    Hi. I read from the Duggar family (the one with 19 children) that once Michelle was feeling really miserable. She decided to sing “my joy is in the Lord” even while crying, folding laundry and being sick that night. She said that eventually a peace came over her and she was able to go to sleep.

    I have only tried this maybe once, but it truly works, and puts on in a great sense of mind!