I didn’t play well as a senior in college. Looking back, I think maybe I was just disappointed. Our team had more downs than ups my first three years and it was all just disappointing. We could have been better. We could have worked harder. We could have won more. But we didn’t. My disappointment piled up, I suppose, and then expressed itself on the field with my subpar play. Despite our team playing better that year. I was still just disappointed in how my career ended.
I usually look back on experiences like that, however, with gratitude. For what it taught me. For how I grew. For the friends I made. But it’s always in retrospect, always looking back.
What about now, in the moment?
What about during disappointment?
What about when I don’t have any perspective on what is happening?
Is there such a thing as gratitude in the middle of disappointment?
The Scripture suggests so and the saints we have known, those who genuinely enjoyed life, seem to confirm it.
Gratitude is not only possible but commanded by the Lord.
Biblical gratitude amid disappointment is NOT:
Posting about how blessed you are because you realize you have it better than most people in the world. Being blessed has nothing—zero—to do with how much better off we are than others in this world. If it did, our depression and suicide rates would plummet. Check the numbers. That ain’t happening.
Pretending things are going well when they are not. That’s just being naïve and attempting to avoid the real pain you might feel.
Being grateful mainly when the road is smooth, the bills are paid, the kids are healthy, and the team is winning. Look at Job and you’ll see that godly people sometimes experience the exact opposite.
Here’s what I’m learning biblical gratitude actually is:
Giving thanks to God because he is good. Not because my life is good, or my team is good, or my health is good, or my finances are good. But because HE is good. Start there.
Giving thanks in everything. Paul wrote that in 1Thessalonians. What in the world? How can I give thanks in the middle if THAT? Because God is good, that’s why.
Giving thanks because I don’t have to worry. I’m not saying we don’t worry. But only that we don’t have to. Paul stressed that to the Philippians while he was on house arrest. Worry about nothing. Pray about everything. Give thanks. Then you’ll know a peace that you can’t explain.
Giving thanks not because I am better off than someone else, but because I am better off than I deserve. Plain and simple meaning: as a sinner, I should be burning in Hell. But God, who is rich in mercy and grace, has given me new life and forgiveness of sin. Never again do I need to look at someone else to find out I am better off. I simply look to the cross.
As Thanksgiving comes and goes each year, may it be more than a warm feeling. May it be a challenge to handle our disappointment with biblical gratitude.
Lord, thank you that you are good, that in THIS I can praise you, that I don’t have to worry, that I have been made new.