Motherhood. Neighboring. Grief. Sarcasm. Jesus.

Writing what I’ve learned along the way.

Wrestling Toward Gratitude When Life Isn’t Great

Wrestling Toward Gratitude When Life Isn’t Great


During this week when we purposefully dedicate time to gratitude, many will struggle with the question: How am I supposed to be grateful when life isn’t that great right now?

Though there are no easy answers, I want to briefly work through how one can begin to wrestle toward a grateful heart during seasons of sorrow.


Name what hurts – to safe people, but most importantly to God. This might feel like a faux pas in a culture that pretends the power of positivity can cure all wrongs. Even in our Christian sub-culture, we become prey to the lie that having faith equates to calling bad things “good.” Though God certainly grows beautiful roses out of the scorched earth of our lives, that doesn’t mean we must pretend the part when we burned to the ground was pleasant.

Disease is painful {Mark 5:26}.

Death is the enemy {1 Corinthians 15:26}.

Broken friendships wound {Proverbs 22:24-25}.

I recently read a quote that said, “It’s a lot easier to be happier when you realize you don’t have to be happy all the time” {Sarah Steck}. I’d echo that by saying it’s a lot easier to be grateful for the good in our lives when we are free to call what is counter to God’s intended design, bad.


Admit to God: I can’t fix this! Cry out to Him to heal your broken heart and to give you peace that passes understanding.

Recognizing that no bootstraps can pull us out of the deep pit we’re in is a way we humble ourselves before the almighty Father. And when we are sobered by the reality of our human frailty, we find greater thankfulness for the goodness and grandeur of God. We more fully rely on Him. We understand that we can’t fix what ails us, but God can.


Before a big event or family gathering, find space to think through the wide variety of emotions you are feeling or anticipate to encounter. Sadness? Guilt? Anger? Hurt?

Even though the holidays pressure us to think we should feel happy, happiness is simply one of many emotions in which we experience life, not our chief goal in life. And being grateful isn’t about feeling happy, it’s about expressing appreciation for who God is and the kindness He has shown us.


This may not come for years after grieving, but seeing the larger scope of our pain through the lens of faith helps us understand that though life unexpectedly changes and bruises us, our identity as God’s child never changes. We better understand that our suffering is temporary in light of an eternity free from it.

We know that disease is painful, but God is our ultimate Healer.

Death is the enemy, but Jesus has defeated it.

Broken friendships wound, but Jesus is our friend who sticks closer to us than a brother.

And these are things in which we find deep and lasting gratitude.


Though we don’t have to call sorrow “good,” we can praise God for the ways our trials have shaped us, broadened our perspective, and matured our faith. Though we don’t have to say we’re grateful for sin or death or pain, we can say we’re grateful for the ways God has provided for us through our experiences with them. Though we might wish things were different, we can be grateful for the fact that our good God never changes.

Grief for our sorrow and gratitude for God’s presence and salvation live together in tangled harmony. And when we remember that truth, gratitude becomes a conscious, mindful act of worship that we can wrestle toward even when life hurts.

Grace and Peace,


This Weary World {includes free Advent Mourning calendar}

This Weary World {includes free Advent Mourning calendar}

When God Challenges Your gods

When God Challenges Your gods