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Oct9FriGiving thanks while facing hardship is a spiritual practice. October 9, 2020 by Darryn Oldford
To say this year has been challenging is an understatement. There are, of course, the normal stressors of life. Bills need to be paid. Deadlines at work seem to pop out of nowhere. The polar ice caps continue to melt at an alarmingly high rate. All of this is stressful enough by itself, but now it is set against a backdrop of a global pandemic. I suspect 2020 will be known for years to come as the time when we collectively noticed our hair thinning from worry. Despite this, life continues, and we are expected to celebrate Thanksgiving.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
It’s been hard to get into a thankful mindset when it seems the world is falling apart. Many of us, myself included, know people who have been sick or died from COVID-19. As social distancing and isolation have become the norm, a lot of people have lost their jobs and face eviction. In Toronto, as in many places, it is expected that you wear a mask while in indoor public spaces and enclosed common areas. Everywhere you look there are reminders that we are living during a pandemic.
As Thanksgiving approaches, there is every likelihood that friends and family may not be able to get together to share a meal, especially if someone is medically vulnerable.
In summary, the world is a pretty dark place right now. It isn’t unreasonable to have difficulty finding things for which to be thankful. If you find yourself consumed with worry or feelings of dread, to the point where it impacts your life and ability to function, please seek out counselling and other mental health resources in your community.
There is always something for which to be thankful ... It doesn’t mean ignoring the bad; it means not ignoring the good.Being grateful is not the same thing as being joyful, but both are needed to be thankful. To me, gratitude is the absence of something, while joy is the presence of something. For instance, I’m grateful when I can eat and not feel the pangs of hunger. I’m joyful when the food in front of me is a cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting. I’m thankful when I’m offered a cinnamon bun when I’m hungry. Similarly, you may be grateful that you aren’t lonely because you have friends, joyful because these friends bring laughter and fun into your life and thankful that your friends bring levity into your life when things look dark.
While it’s often easier to feel gratitude than joy in life, especially when times are hard, there is always something for which to be thankful if you look for it. It doesn’t mean ignoring the bad; it means not ignoring the good.
As someone who has battled depression and anxiety, I’ve learned a lot about resilience. Resilience doesn’t mean you don’t feel sad or fearful, but that you continue to do what needs to be done despite those feelings. It is a learned skill that only develops with time, practise and mindful awareness.
The Bible is filled with stories of resilience, from the Jewish people leaving Egypt with Pharaoh’s army at their back, to Daniel continuing to pray regardless of religious persecution, to Esther facing death and deciding to speak out for her people. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” While it’s easy to give thanks when life is going our way, giving thanks while facing hardship is a spiritual practice that takes work.
We can give thanks for the smallest things we might not usually even notice. One practice I’ve found helpful is writing down one positive thing that happens to me every day. It could be something small, such as there was a storm and my power stayed on, or something big, like I got a promotion at work. Even on the worst days, there’s always something for which to be thankful if we look hard enough. At the same time, if you can’t find something to be thankful for during so much turmoil, give yourself some grace. This practice isn’t meant to make you feel worse, but rather to help you notice how God provides, regardless of circumstance.
This Thanksgiving may be different, but try to take time to find things that deserve thanksgiving. Know that with every step of faith you take, through good times in life and bad, God is with you. That is well worth celebrating and giving thanks for.
Darryn Oldford is a senior soldier in Toronto.
Photo: fstop123/E+ via Getty Images