Cultivating a Thankful Heart in Grief
Since the beginning of November, the act of having a thankful heart has been at the forefront of my mind. I have pondered and wrestled through some deep waters trying to figure out how to change the trajectory of my less-than-thankful heart. Circumstantially, day to day life is complicated.
We are almost 16 months out from losing Justin and every day presents a new normal. Waves of grief come crashing in with little to no warning. One moment I am laughing and the next second a dark cloud of sadness makes an unplanned visit. My heart aches as I witness my children grieve the loss of their big brother and my husband lament for his firstborn son. Consequently, superficial thankfulness is not an option.
A few weeks ago, I began asking God to help me to have a heart filled with praise and thanksgiving. Each day, I have attempted to be intentionally thankful. It’s been a struggle because my prayers and praise felt hollow, and lacking in fervor. One morning, I read Psalm 103:1, Bless the LORD, O’ my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! You know, it never occurred to me that King David exhorted himself to bless the Lord with his entire being; this right here, this is what I want!
A few days later I read Psalm 118:1, Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. I thought, okay, my heart can relate to this; I can praise the Lord for his goodness. And, the fact that his steadfast love endures forever totally amazes me. A little while later, I pulled up Strong’s Concordance and what I read next, BLEW MY MIND!
“Give thanks (3034) ) to throw, shoot, cast 1a) (Qal) to shoot (arrows) 1b) (Piel) to cast, cast down, throw down.”
What?!? I promptly called Tim out of his office and practically shouted the definition to him. How have I never heard this before? I mean, do you see what I see? I love the picture of throwing down arrows of thankfulness. Doesn’t this give “Girl, we gonna throw down” a whole new meaning? HA!
Admittedly, that morning, I was excited about my discovery, but when the afternoon showed up, fresh waves of grief appeared, and my enthusiasm came to a grinding halt. Later, I asked the Lord about that, wondering how to maintain thankfulness within sorrow and suffering.
Today, I think I got another portion of my answer. It is entirely possible to be thankful for the more trivial things in life because every good and perfect gift comes from God. But, the deep abiding thankful and praise filled-heart which every believer longs for ultimately comes from remembering our redemption, the beautiful Gospel. When I recall how he called me out of darkness into his marvelous light, it is then my heart brims with joy. When I consider how God called me, a marginalized and selfish teenage girl to be His child, I am overwhelmed by his grace and mercy. It is here I can throw down arrows of praise and thankfulness and say, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Cor 9:15
I’ve learned something new. Genuine praise does magically appear on our lips; the transforming work of the Holy Spirit produces a heart filled with gratitude and thankfulness. Therefore, the fastest way to true thankfulness is to preach the Gospel to ourselves. It’s that beautiful truth which enables me to lift my eyes heavenward and throw down those arrows of praise to the King of kings and Lord of lords!
With this in mind, I am holding the Apostle Paul’s words close to my heart: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.
Forever held in His grip,