My Thanksgiving Gratitude — in Retrospect

Thanksgiving is a yearly chance to reflect on our “Gratitude Quotient.” But some years this is clearly more difficult than others.

For example, in 2019 I went through an unexpected battle with cancer. I admit, sometimes I struggled to find anything to be thankful for. It wasn’t easy to see how any good thing could come out of this trial in my life. 

However, as I look back, I realize that many of the things I’m now MOST grateful for are past events I wasn’t grateful for at all  when they were taking place.

I call this “gratitude in retrospect” – the phenomenon of being grateful today for situations we once grumbled about. In a blog several months ago, I described this as The Manure Effect – God’s ability to use the “stinky” experiences in our lives to fertilize us for greater fulfillment and fruitfulness in the days ahead.

Perhaps you can relate. Have you gone through hard times when it was extremely difficult to give thanks? But now, in retrospect, you see that there were some unmistakable benefits from your trials. You found out who your friends were – your true friends, not just your Facebook friends. And although your foundation was severely tested, you were surprised to discover that you ended up stronger in the end. Perhaps best of all, you gained a new platform of credibility to help others who are going through similar trials. 

When you arrive at this new perspective, gratitude finally rises in your heart as you see how God has woven all the painful events into a beautiful tapestry for your future.

  • Maybe you had a relationship breakup that tore your very heart…but it paved the way for the Lord to provide someone much better in your life.
  • Maybe you faced cancer or some other severe trial in your health…but it caused you to make lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise – and now you’re feeling better than ever.
  • Maybe you lost a job you thought you’d have until retirement…but God opened (or will open) a new door that’s a much better fit for your gifts and passions.
  • Maybe you’ve experienced a financial meltdown, such as foreclosure or bankruptcy…but you learned vital lessons that eventually put you on the path to prosperity.
  • Maybe you went through some other difficult experience that has now given you a platform to help others.

These are just a few examples of how “gratitude in retrospect” can occur.  Yet I’m still troubled by how hard it is for me to be grateful at the same time as my trials are occurring. After all, the Bible instructs us to give thanks “IN everything,” not just AFTER everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I’m also sad that although I’ve given lip service to Romans 8:28 for decades, God’s amazing promise there is still not rooted as deeply in my life as it should be. Even though the apostle Paul had gone through incredible trials (2 Corinthians 11:22-28), he boldly declared, “We KNOW that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

As the truth of Romans 8:28 becomes more a part of my life, I hope to become more grateful all the time – not just in retrospect. I want to become increasingly aware that God is always working to “connect the dots” in my life, creating a masterpiece I could never have imagined during my times of adversity.

So I pray you will join me in being grateful TODAY – no matter what the day brings…no matter what you may be going through. You may not understand it all today, but you can be confident the Lord is working out His wonderful plan nevertheless.

And if you find yourself grateful, in retrospect, for some painful experiences in the past, I would love to hear your story. God is a faithful gardener, and He doesn’t want that manure to go to waste!