by Candy Arrington
I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God. Psalm 9:1-2 MSG
Have you experienced a time when you really wanted something, prayed constantly, did everything humanly possible, and still things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped? It’s difficult to express gratitude when dreams go unfulfilled, and prayers seem unanswered.
Hannah’s story in the Old Testament is one of wanting, suffering, trusting, and answered prayer. In Hannah’s time, a woman’s self-worth depended largely on her ability to have children. Hannah’s husband loved her and was concerned about her, but no matter how understanding and loving her husband, Hannah still felt like a failure, because she was childless.
While you may not be able to connect with Hannah’s situation, we’ve all experienced times of disappointment, frustration, and defeat. When we focus on what we don’t have, gratitude is far from our thoughts.
Following Hannah’s example, we can discover and cultivate gratitude by:
Despite her sorrow, Hannah understood worship. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit prays for us in our weakness with groans too deep for words (Romans 8: 26). That’s the kind of intense worship and prayer Hannah expressed, even in her disappointment.
Often when we go through a time of emotional upset or difficulty, we fail to worship. Even if we attend church, we’re not totally there mentally or spiritually. Our minds drift to imagined scenarios of what we wish would happen. In times of difficulty, worshiping God totally requires intentionality.
Hannah potentially had a major source of envy in her life – her husband’s other wife, which sounds a little like the title for a daytime drama! Peninnah possessed what Hannah wanted most – children. Peninnah seized every opportunity to make Hannah feel worse by taunting her.
Steer clear of the envy trap. Envy robs us of joy and leaves us with an attitude that can sour our whole outlook on life. Although it’s hard to do, praise God for how he’s blessed you, and stop looking at others and envying their situation. You can be sure there are difficulties in their lives of which you simply aren’t aware.
Often, we choose to focus on hard circumstances rather than blessings. To redirect your thoughts, consider starting a gratitude journal. As your blessings list grows, notice how your thoughts track toward positive aspects of life.
Once Hannah shifted her focus to praise and thanksgiving, Peninnah’s jeers faded. Ultimately, Hannah’s prayers were answered, but even before she had that assurance, she praised God. Our lives transform when we learn to recognize and give thanks for blessings.
Live in the Present
Like Hannah, we sometimes get so involved in the wished-for future we forget to enjoy life today. Hannah modeled some practical steps we can adopt when we’re discouraged and not feeling grateful.
First, Hannah prayed. She honestly poured out her fears, frustrations, and hurts to God. Second, she told Eli, a trusted church leader, her situation. Eli listened, prayed for Hannah, and encouraged her. Sometimes, we need encouragement and help from someone else to get an objective view of our situation. Third, Hannah stopped feeling sorry for herself and trusted God. She left her unfulfilled dreams at the altar, dried her tears, ate a meal, and went home with a smile on her face.
We can do the same. By making an effort to discover gratitude, we gain a new perspective that provides joy today and hope for the future.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals on faith, personal growth, and moving through and beyond difficult life circumstances. Her books include: Life On Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.
Candy’s new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well, provides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.
Join the conversation: Have you allowed gratitude to influence your attitude towards unanswered prayer?