Giving thanks…that’s what we’re all “supposed” to be doing right now. What happens when that’s hard? Of course, it’s easy enough to give thanks for “family, friends, and faith,” but how about the hard things in our lives? Sometimes, it seems that the season of Thanksgiving can bring only discontentment as we look around and designate how many things we don’t have for which to be thankful. It soon becomes natural to shake our fists at the sky with a “thanks for nothing” attitude.
I’m learning that, unfortunately, there will always be parts of my life with which I’m not feeling particularly grateful. If I don’t take on a humble, thankful attitude now…then when? I’m trying to learn to give thanks for where I am and what I have in my life currently. Even for the hard parts, I want to take a fresh perspective.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a purpose. Just because I believe things have a purpose doesn’t mean I am immune to bitterness, frustration, etc. These shortcomings and struggles, however, are teaching me to persevere. Each battle I must fight is making me stronger for the next set of obstacles. Without the previous struggles I was forced to face, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to conquer the subsequent struggles. So, for the ways in which my current struggles equip me, I can be thankful.
Not only are we forced to become stronger, many trials also force us to re-assess where we are. I can get so busy that I neglect to actually think. Yet, there is nothing like a deep hurt which leads to introspection. In those times, I feel that I am often so benefitted by realizations that issues with which I’m struggling are the result of the poor decisions. In that way too I want to be grateful for the struggles.
I believe that more happens in our hearts in the challenging times than in the times of “milk and honey”-more growth, more evaluation, and more learning. Then, when we are blessed with something that is outright wonderful, it is made more so by the preceding times of struggles. Having really hard times in my life makes me even more grateful when things are going smoothly. It’s kind of like that Passenger song, “Let Her Go” which says “Only know you've been high when you're feeling low.” Essentially, I want to learn to be thankful in the most difficult parts of my life, knowing that I will be all the more encouraged by the good times.
Beauty is everywhere. I don’t want to be so consumed with my discontentment that I miss it. If I am living in gratitude, I believe I will be more likely to also see the little things for which to be thankful. Maybe as I look for the small good things, they will begin to become more prevalent in my perspective.
I know that being thankful isn’t easy. It is seemingly impossible at times. I just don’t want to put off being thankful “until times are better” and look up and realize I’ve spent my whole life in discontentment and ungratefulness. Life isn’t long enough for that. I want to instead spend my life searching for and treasuring the blessings I do have. That search for and conferment of beauty, I believe, is what makes life worth living.
Heather is a masters candidate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.