Lately I’ve been feeling grateful for being a member of Eric’s family. Although I’ve been grateful for this throughout our 37 years of marriage, the feelings of gratefulness I’ve recently felt are deeper—more visceral—than ever before. Why am I feeling such gratitude for being a part of the Nordstrom family? Some of it is probably due to life experience and maturity. But the majority of my gratitude seems to be an outcome of the fear and sorrow I have experienced since Harry, the 97-year-old family patriarch, experienced a head trauma while eating breakfast in his kitchen on December 21st, and, after spending a few days at Hennepin County Medical Center, is now being cared for at home in Northfield by his five children.
What brings on feelings of gratitude? According to Diana Butler Bass, scholar and writer on American religion and culture, there are three aspects to the feeling of gratitude:
1. Situation: “Whether an event engenders positive or negative emotions depends on the situation. Changing jobs can sometimes cause stress instead of elation and anticipation, completing a project might bring sadness rather than joy, a mountain might be an obstacle to climb rather than an inspiring vista, and writing a paper might just be an onerous class assignment instead of a welcome challenge.”
2. Emotions: “. . . the emotions that weave into gratitude range widely, from relief, appreciation, and release to surprise, wonder or awe, and gladness and joy.”
3. An unplanned response. *
Ultimately, Bass says, gratitude is a response to receiving an unexpected gift.
After ruminating a bit on Bass’ three aspects of experiencing gratitude, I believe that I am feeling deep gratitude because I experienced fear and sorrow about Harry’s condition in the company of others who were experiencing the same emotions; my situation was that I was with others experiencing the same despair. And the emotions of appreciation and gladness at being a member of this loving family arose out of the darkness of my fear and sorrow—the unplanned response to receiving an unexpected gift from God.
I do not believe that God causes suffering. But I do know that God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering. A response to God’s grace is the God-given gift of gratitude. Feeling gratitude is like a buoy of resilience when we are caught in life’s turbulent waters of suffering.
My prayer for you this week, is that even when life seems to offer nothing but pain and sorrow, you will be open to the unexpected gift of gratitude!
*Excerpt From: Diana Butler Bass. “Grateful.” Apple Books.