Can you be grateful for everything?

It seems to me that gratefulness is a joyous state once you’re experiencing it–but also a frightening prospect when realizing how far you are from it.

Can you truly be thankful for every single thing in life? Or is it impossible? Is it good for us? Is it unrealistic in the long run?

Here is an upcoming book series that challenges the normal assumption that we cannot possibly be thankful for the bad things in life:

“Thank God I…”™ explores individual stories (I suppose you could call them testimonies) from people who have been through hell on earth and come out the better for it.

Some of the working titles of this series are:

    Thank God My Husband Cheated On Me
    Thank God My Parents Divorced
    Thank God I Am Not Married
    Thank God I Was Sexually Molested
    Thank God I Was Raised By Two Moms
    Thank God I Was/Am A Battered Spouse
    Thank God I Was Emotionally Abused
    Thank God My Father Left Me
    Thank God I Had An Abortion
    Thank God I Can’t Conceive Children
    Thank God I Gave Up My Child
    Thank God My Child Is Autistic
    Thank God I Am A Bitch
    Thank God I Am Short
    Thank God I Had An Affair
    Thank God I Home Schooled

Uh, wow? Does anyone else feel emotions rise up when they read that list? If so, what emotions did you feel? And did anyone else laugh at the “bitch” one? ;)

At first, my jaw simply dropped to the ground. My knee-jerk reaction upon seeing the website was to say, “How dare you trivialize pain like that!” and to assume that the series was going to ignore the wrongness and pain of what happened in those situations.

According to the site:

John and Amanda [the creators] have made it their mission to compile a book series comprising stories of some of the most challenging issues we face in experiencing gratitude. These books will heal and open hearts around the globe by sharing one simple message: “Our greatest lessons come in the form of our greatest challenges!”

John Castagnini and Amanda Kroetsch are two inspired individuals whose lives have been touched and transformed by the gifts of gratitude and love. They have found time and time again that once one experiences the true healing power of being grateful for what is by being aware of what is, the natural human instinct is to share that gift with others.

The site is a bit heavy on the happy-flowery “healing and peace comes from within” vibe, but it did get me thinking about the topic of gratefulness in my life.

How do we become thankful for horrifying and grieving events? How does this even come about–if ever? Should we be grateful for hardship? Is thankfulness the sign of true healing? Does it always involve forgiveness? How long does it take to get from anguish and hurt to thankfulness and peace? Is God a part of that process? What’s the difference between being grateful and just accepting it? Does good always come out of bad situations?

So folks, help me figure this out. Do you think this series is as controversial as they claim it will be? Do you think it will flop? Is it a point that needs to be shared? Would you read any of them?

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3 thoughts on “Can you be grateful for everything?

  1. About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

    Peace Be With You
    Michael

  2. That is a very interesting book idea. Once the shock value wears off, however, it sounds like yet another self-help book that tries to tell you how you ought to feel which, in my opinion, is one of the most hurtful things you can do to a human being with feelings that may not fit the most desirable emotional mold.

    I think it’s fair to say that even very negative events will have positive consequences, and I think that a person who suffers from said negative event will be able to find those positive consequences him/herself. But it strikes me as dishonest that this book seems to focus exclusively on the gratitude that we should feel for having suffered through our parents’ divorce, or having an abortion, or whatever. We consider these to be negative life events because the overall feelings that we have for them, and the overall impact they have on our lives, is typically negative. Writing an entire book about how such negative and emotionally-charged events were the cause of gratitude may have therapeutic effects for the writer, but will likely serve to further isolate the person still struggling with the overwhelming negative feelings associated with, for example, a divorce.

    Anger, frustration, depression, etc. are all very natural emotional responses to difficult situations. Why someone would write a book detailing the positives of such difficult situations is beyond me… it’s kind of like the one person whose house wasn’t destroyed in the tornado talking about how happy they are to have a house when everyone else lost everything: just salt in a wound.

    That’s the way I see it, at least. Let the optimism continue :)

  3. Romans 8:28 “And we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
    [emphasis mine]

    Certainly we are shaped by our experiences, so you would not be who you are today if you had not been raped, had an abortion, murdered a person, etc. God gives us grace to overcome those things, and to overcome ourselves and our sinful nature.

    Is a Christian testimony more effective when the story is one of overcoming adversity with the help of God, or is it more effective if it’s a story of someone who never did anything bad or had anything bad happen to them?

    Not that we should desire bad experiences, but they do make us more interesting human beings and they glorify God all the more that his sacrifice can cleanse even the worst of sinners.

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