Interesting title, don’t you think? Is it even possible? Can gratitude really be forced?
For someone to attempt to force others to be grateful, the answer is no. One can act grateful for fear of certain consequences, but in their heart and mind, I’ll wager they’d be far from grateful. I’d even bet they’d be angry and resentful.
I’ll admit I’m of the latter. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, while no one is forcing me to be grateful (as such), I am having a difficult time convincing myself I should be. That’s the whole reason behind the holiday: to express our thanksgiving and gratitude to God for all our blessings.
And I should. Intellectually, I know that. My heart, however, is stubborn. It prefers to mope. To be resentful and keep count of all my losses, frustrations, and failures.
Even pointing out how many have lost more than me isn’t enough to pull my heart out of its malaise.
I know I’m not alone. No one is enjoying (except for politicians, bureaucrats, and tech companies) the current upheaval, the loss of liberties, and the general isolation from friends and family. The latter is especially difficult to accept right now considering Thanksgiving has always been about gathering and sharing in the year’s blessings.
We can’t celebrate that one cornerstone of the holiday this year, whether by a number of family members choosing not to, or by government edict. What, then, is the purpose of celebrating it now when it’s largely stripped of its meaning?
I know what some of you are thinking: I can still celebrate with my immediate family. I can still celebrate with others online. I can still count my many other blessings–for which I am self-aware and honest enough to know they’re innumerable.
Yet ignoring what my heart is telling me is not a solution. It’s pulling the wool over my own eyes.
Unless someone can show me different, no scripture exists that states we must ignore our griefs. And that’s what I’m feeling: grief over losing my country; grief over losing my God-given liberties; grief over my forced isolation; and grief with the certainty it’ll only get worse.
So while God doesn’t demand we never grieve or ignore it, he expects us not to wallow in them and provides ways to rise above them. I’ll admit when I searched for relevant scriptures, I was inundated with so many possibilities, how could I possibly narrow it down?
So I concentrated on Psalms, because David so often wrote about his own doubts, struggles, and grief:
Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 34:17-18: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
In short, no matter how much we grieve, God is there to lift us up. We just need to take a moment, be still, listen, and healing will come. As long as we believe he will. While gratitude can’t be forced, doing so is certainly in our best interest. Otherwise all we have to hope for is despair.