How Can I See the Light
The following is a brief summary of the audio, available by download here.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
In this, the first of six talks based on her book How Can I see the Light When It Is So Dark? Journey to a Thankful Heart, author Linda Douty challenges us to re-examine what it means to be grateful:
We are brought up to think that being grateful is a matter of saying ‘thank you’ at the right time (and often), penning a proper thank-you note, remembering to say grace before meals, and if we’re truly devout, making a lengthy list of blessings at Thanksgiving time, or, as the old song says, ‘…counting your blessings instead of sheep.’ All that is vital and valid, of course, but it merely scratches the surface of the meaning of true gratitude.
Douty caught a glimpse of what true gratitude really means while she was flipping through the TV channels one night, watching scenes of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She paused to listen to a victim captured on camera, and will never forget what she heard: “A stunned young woman stood amid the wreckage of what had once been her home, mumbling her tearful thanks for being alive in the carnage all around her.”
The questions that sprang out of that image took Douty through an exploration of the genesis and sustainability of true thankfulness—the type of gratitude that remains even when we're surrounded by misfortune and gratefulness seems almost comically out of place.
True gratitude, it seems, comes from a place deep within; it is an impulse imbedded in young children that somehow gets pushed aside in a world dominated by cyncism and negativity.“I think there’s something primal, mysterious and God-given in the way we are created,” Douty explains, pointing to recent medical research that reveals a reliable link between generosity and health, and scientific studies measuring the degree to which acts of gratitude actually release positive hormones and strengthen the immune system in ways that can be quantified.
“That alone is probably enough to grab our selfish attention and spur our natural desire for self-preservation,” she continues. “However, I hope that in this study on gratitude, we can go beneath that ego-centered tendency in which the motivating factor is our own well-being. Certainly, we’ll need to dig beneath gratitude as good manners or gratitude for health and longevity or even gratitude as religious obedience.”
Beneath those surface notions is the concept of being thankful in all things, not for all things—a way of being where gratitude remains despite our circumstances and embraces the promise of Christian hope. “An authentic thankful heart involves a kind of joy and acceptance of life—not necessarily approval or condoning, and certainly not fatalism, but a stalwart look at realities or past events we can’t change.”
In podcasts two through six, Douty explores the “ways we can live faithfully in the tension of tragedy and hope; how we can deal honestly with not only the big losses, but also the daily doses of disappointment and irritation that we all experience—aches and pains, the rocky relationships, the unpaid bills.”
Though gratitude is more a process than a choice, there are numerous choices we can make that cooperate with that sacred dynamic of thanksgiving, and some choices that throw up roadblocks.
First, we must dare to believe that the journey to a thankful heart is a trip worth taking.
Secondly, we’ll look at some of the barriers that sidetrack us.
Next, we’ll consider navigating the bridges to gratitude.
Then, through God’s grace, we may actually find ourselves becoming thankful people. I invite you to come along with me as we explore this challenging journey to a thankful heart.