It’s a week where we are reminded to be thankful. Many of us will gather with family or friends to share a meal (or two or three). There will be laughter, stress, tears—a whole gamut of emotions. Maybe we’ll go around the table and ask folks to name something for which they are thankful. The responses will vary, and some will be predictable.
Being grateful is easier sometimes than others. But gratitude should not hinge on the acceptability of our circumstances. Gratitude is a way of being. When we are grateful people we see the world with different eyes. Grateful people still see the pain and suffering in the world and in their own lives. They feel it deeply. They hurt—both for themselves and for others. In fact, because they are grateful people, they can more acutely hold pain and suffering than those who blind themselves to their own hurt or that of others.
Grateful people are faith-filled people. They can hold the pain because they know there’s a bigger picture, a larger scenario than the pain they know. It is those who deny, numb, or ignore pain and suffering who cannot truly be grateful. When you numb yourself to pain, when you pretend it doesn’t exist, you cannot be fully present to great joy and gratitude.
To be truly grateful is to celebrate what is, to live fully in the present moment, whatever it brings, with faith and trust and thanksgiving. It is to recognize that being human means being present for all of life. Habakkuk captures beautifully what it means to celebrate what is:
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails,
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold,
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.