When Gratitude Feels Impossible

My soul waits in silence for God only. Psalm 62:1

I have several friends who lost a parent this year. As the holidays loom, they are bracing themselves for the many “firsts”: without Mom, making the turkey, staying home instead of sleeping at her house. The ache is rushing toward them as the calendar turns without their permission. And they’re on a collision course with an unwanted reality: deep emptiness during a time of appointed thanksgiving. What do you do when your mouth spits ashes and you find it impossible to say, “I’m grateful for this, Lord”?

Reams of paper and scrolls of digital pages have been written about gratitude. Gratitude journals, an “attitude of gratitude”, and exercising “eucharisteo” dot our bookstores and computer screens, thanks to our favorite personalities and writers. Even research and studies remind us that those who practice thankfulness have stronger immune systems, more joy and feel less lonely.

But there are days and seasons and years when we just can’t muster it up. We just can’t conjure thankfulness. No matter how hard we try, it just won’t come, not from within and not from outside us. We’re speechless, but not in an overwhelmed way, instead in an underwhelmed way. Our mouths are empty because no words will do.

Even in this place–this lonely, desolate place–God enters in. He offers hope for my friends facing a shrouded holiday, and hope for me on a weepy stretch. He says that He can transform nothingness: “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans” (Romans 8:26, The Message).

From emptiness and ashes, He shapes our silence into prayer, a generous offering from nothingness. God plus nothing equals something. That’s gratitude. ~ Judy

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