Gratitude is a response or a reaction: Thank you for the gift, Thank you for your help, Thank you for your act of kindness…
Gratitude is also a decision or fundamental way of trying to live life: The recovering alcoholic and addict who discovers gratitude in the painful aftermath of ‘hitting bottom’, the man diagnosed with a progressive disease who begins to take stock of his life and works on healing broken relationships, the spouse who allows him- or herself to be loved and accepted and cared for when it’s hard to love him- or herself…
This kind of gratitude, the kind borne of struggle, pain, hardship and even death, offers us a glimpse of the redemptive love of God.
Martin Rinkhart was a Lutheran Pastor. He lived in Eilenberg in Saxony during the Thirty Years War. Eilenberg was a walled city, and it was surrounded by enemy forces. During the siege, people were dying of disease and
starvation; over 800 homes were burned. As things became more and more dire, Rinkhart was conducting 50 funerals per day. That year (c. 1647), he would conduct 5,000 funerals, including one for his own wife. When the war
ended a year later in 1648, he took some time to reflect on his relationship with God and his faith after that harrowing experience, and he discovered at the root of that experience,
was, somehow, gratitude! He wrote the words to a hymn that continues to express thankfulness to this day:
Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices
Who wondrous things hath done,
in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms,
hath blessed us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
To be grateful in experiences of pain, suffering, and loss, is to recognize the love and compassion of the God who comes to us in order to walk with us in all that is a part of the human experience. As Advent and Christmas approach,
we await the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us. In God’s decision to share our lives in and through the humanity of His Son Jesus Christ, and to embrace even the absurdity and emptiness of the cross, we find the source for a
gratitude that rejoices in redemptive love, even in the face of devastation and tragedy. We rejoice that nothing is
May God bless us with the gift of gratitude for the obvious and especially the not-so-obvious moments of grace in our lives.