Gratitude and Finding God in Strife

Written by Allison Cunningham

Gratitude has been tough for me lately. A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that has made it hard to get out of bed in the morning, not to mention to be grateful for waking up. When days, weeks or months go by in a slow gray blur (especially in the winter in Minneapolis when the sun rarely even shows itself), with the added joys of midterms, papers and maintaining a good GPA, it can be really hard to pull your nose off the grindstone and take a look around. The truth is, though, hardship is what allows us to feel gratitude in the first place. If it weren’t for the daily struggles we all face, what would we have to hold up as a comparison to those things we love?

My anxiety, for example; sometimes it will worsen unexpectedly, and for a number of days it’s hard to feel happy about much, or to achieve a sensation of comfort or safety. But even on those days, regardless of how hard it is for me to see it, I am surrounded by people who love and care for me, no matter what. That’s a hard reality to accept when your mind is constantly telling you you’re alone. But eventually I am able to recognize the support that surrounds me, and even see God acting through those networks.

Whether we notice it in the moment or not, God is always beside us, behind us and within us. Especially when things get hard. Even as I’m writing this it’s hard for me to believe, but I know it’s true. God calls us to not just endure our daily hardships of midterms and freezing weather, but also to occasionally take a look around and see the people we are enduring those things with. I see God the most in the people around me who offer me unconditional support, regardless of whether or not I deserve it. And I am always grateful for it, both during and after those tough moments.

We can’t just be grateful for our loved ones when things are going well; it’s when things really, really suck that we see their true value. That’s when God really works through them. All of us know it takes a lot to always be there for someone. Take a moment and consider everyone who has done that for you and think of specific times that they have really come through. Express your gratitude for those times, whether it’s just by saying “thank you” or something more extravagant. Feeling and expressing gratitude, inside or outside the church, is its own kind of worship.