Vale of Tears

Gratitude that Sustains



Gratitude that Sustains

Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you have;
it depends upon what you think . . .
It is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of travelling.

Dale Carnegie and Margaret Runbeck

Not everyone feels the need to express their grief as openly as we have encouraged in this book. My Granny, a widow for over half a century, took Alfred Lord Tennyson’s words and made them her own: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved.” In her own case, she remained profoundly grateful for the life she had so briefly enjoyed with her husband – not to mention the son she bore him, and the son whom he then fathered – that’s me, folks!

We saw earlier that the longer and louder we complain, the more we risk becoming inwardly bitter and externally isolated. I referred earlier to Joss Ackland’s comment that not a day passes without providing him with opportunities to grieve. Let’s put that the other way round: not a single day passes without providing many opportunities to express our gratitude.

Many of us only fully appreciate things (or people) after we have lost them. As this dawned on the French authoress, Colette, she exclaimed, “What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I’d realised it sooner!”

During one prolonged period of grief, we went through many years ago, when pressures were piling in against us from all angles, we resolved to count our blessings, six by six. We kept a “Book of Gratitudes” jotting down at least half a dozen things each day to be grateful for. There was never any shortage.

I am not speaking here of life-changing experiences or world-shaking events, but simply of acknowledging the Lord’s daily grace and goodness. A tasty meal, an inspiring film or television programme, a fresh insight, a startling sunset or a beautiful view. Thanking God helps us to realise just how much He is doing, even if the particular issue we are most concerned about still appears no closer to resolution.

Too often we leave the two-edged Sword of Praise hanging on the wall, more like an ornament than an integral part of our spiritual armour. It takes love as well as courage to take it out of its scabbard and to affirm that God knows precisely what He is doing. Thanksgiving is both joy to the soul and a weapon to be used against our doubts.

Reflect and Pray

Lord, forgive me that I default so quickly to grumbling.

Cultivate this spirit of praise and gratitude in me,
for it will keep me from despondency –
and others will catch the uplift that it brings.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.