On Second Thought: What does true gratitude look like?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 23, 2023

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By Marie Harrison

For the Clemmons Courier

You know the age-old question, “If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?”

Without hesitation, I know my answer. Of course, I would give to charities and help others, but after that? I’d hire a personal chef. If there’s one chore I hate more than all the others, it’s the one I have to do over and over again, all day, every day: cook. Fixing meals for a family of five, undoubtedly means someone will not like something I have made. And maybe I should clarify: I hate having to cook healthy meals for my family each and every day. There is never any complaint when I pull a pizza out of the oven. Chicken nuggets are a crowd-pleaser whether you are six or 16. But broccoli? Sweet potatoes? Fish? That’s where someone in my family will draw the line.

And yet, it still has to be done. I want my kids to get the vitamins and minerals they need to grow strong, healthy bodies, and I want them to learn to eat a variety of foods so that if they are ever at friend’s house or out to eat with a boss someday, they won’t turn their noses up at the food being offered or be labeled rude or picky. And so that is how I find myself in the kitchen every night cooking a meal that someone will undoubtedly hate. My husband knows what a task this is, to every night, be setting myself up for failure somehow, and so each and every night at the end of the meal, he thanks me for cooking. It may not be his favorite meal, but that doesn’t matter. He thanks me for the effort and care, and thought I have put into making sure our family eats what they should. And along the way, a funny thing happened. My son also started thanking me for cooking.

At 16, grilled chicken and veggies are not his favorite foods. Quesadillas and pizza would top his list any day of the week over shrimp or carrots, yet he thanks me anyway. He has learned from watching his dad the importance of showing gratitude, even when it’s hard. And of all the life lessons to learn, that has to be one of the hardest. It’s easy to give thanks and praise when things are good when you get your first choice, when life is smooth sailing, but what happens when it’s not? What happens in the trial? What happens when the rain pours? Can we be grateful even then?

So many times, we pray to God and ask for the good, ask for the healing, ask for the blessing, and sometimes the answer is “no.” Can we still be grateful to God even in the “no”? The answer, of course, is “yes.” Being grateful doesn’t just mean we are thankful for our current situation. True gratitude means we are thankful for the bigger picture, even if we can’t see it all just yet. Like my son and husband who thank me for meals they’d rather not eat but know it is done with love for their greater good, so too do we need to thank God for the trials we’d rather not endure.

Romans 5: 3-5 says we should not only be grateful in our sufferings, but we should glory because these momentary sufferings produce perseverance that leads to character and hope, and hope does not put us to shame.

So whether this Thanksgiving finds you on the top of a mountain surrounded by blessings or at the bottom of a pit wondering how you will ever get out, there is still reason to praise and give thanks to God. Psalm 118:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His faithful love endures forever.” God’s love is not based on our circumstances. He doesn’t just love when we are at our highest or lowest, His faithful love endures forever. And for that, we should give thanks. Our hearts should be grateful. Even in the trials, even in the suffering, even in the pain, there is always reason to give thanks to the Lord. And on Thanksgiving, as my family fills their plates with foods they like and probably a few they’d rather not eat, I’m grateful that I know, I’ll still hear a “thank you” at the end because they are thankful for the heart behind it all. And in the same way, I’ll lift my praise to God, no matter the circumstance, because I am grateful for the heart behind it all — for a faithful love that endures forever.