Seeking Gratitude: Finding the Way When God Lets Dreams Fail
- 2019 Oct 14
I hadn’t realized that I was living in a bubble until the moment it burst. When it finally came undone I was devastated. How had things gone so wrong so quickly?
I’ve never seen myself as a bubble-dweller. I’ve taken countless missions trips to third world countries. I’ve seen firsthand the horror and destitute lives of people living in awful conditions. I’ve visited streets where multiple homes without running water shared a single bathroom. I’ve visited the colonies of Lepers outcast from society. I’ve dug holes for latrines in dump sites where families lived off the waste of other people…
I’m not unaware.
Still, memories can’t fix a heart condition. When bills pile up and finances are inadequate, frustration and ungratefulness can grow.
In the USA, there are things we generally treat as necessities of modern life. My car is a needed accommodation, insurance is vital, heat is essential, air conditioning given, stylish duds of social significance, fresh bottled water paramount, a healthy diet expected…And the list goes on.
I’m chagrin if I have to shut off the internet, turn down the heat, or live on rice and beans. I live in the United States! Why is my family plagued with medical bills, relentless school loans, and an inability to get past living paycheck to paycheck? We work hard, we follow the rules, we don’t make extravagant expenditures … I want a family vacation! I want better opportunities.
And that’s where ungratefulness lives.
I can shut the venomous mouth of thanklessness most of the time, but the truth that came pouring out as my bubble popped was that underneath the superficial face of knowing better, was an ungrateful heart.
I wanted more in a way that allowed the seed of discontentment to grow.
Why does everyone else prosper while we keep struggling? Why, GOD, would YOU build up my tower only to bring it down?
Oh sure, I sang the songs. I said “less of me, and more of you, God.” But, I still wanted a little more for me.
I know. It’s ugly.
My husband got the job and I got the house of my dreams in a neighborhood I love. Finally, it’s my turn, I thought. But, then…
But then, nothing worked out the way it was supposed to.
And, I felt my dreams slipping through my fingers.
And then I knew.
I knew that all along I had wanted more and was never happy with less. I knew that I had built my dreams into idols. I knew that my desire to have a home that was mine had trumped the notion that we can “bloom where we are planted” or that “home is where the heart is.” In fact, secretly, I’ve hated those quotes. You bloom where you’re planted, I want more!
Over the next few months, we got by on the annoying dependence of a credit card while I waited for God to save the day. And in the waiting, peace grew. By God’s grace, peace grew. And, different questions rose to the front of my mind. Are my dreams more important than God and my family? Can I let them go? If I do…what will happen? And, can I trust God?
There is a place where dreams go to die. And there is a certain amount of mourning that follows, but if we let him, God has a way of taking those broken scattered, busted dreams and reconstructing them into something new, something pure, and something better; something entirely devoted to the One who formed them.
Reluctantly, I grew more comfortable with the idea of releasing my dreams and entrusting them to God. As I did, a memory surfaced. I recalled hearing about a family in India, enslaved to bonded labor. The oldest boy was asked what his dreams for his life were. He looked up quizzically before he replied, “Dreams? I don’t have dreams. The chance to dream is a luxury.”
His family had no hope of something better. They were bound by an unfairly managed system where they worked to pay off debts that only increased with time. Debts held by merciless businessmen who care not if you are sick. You work until you die, and then the debt is passed onto those still living.
Dreams are a luxury fueled by the hope of possibility. We can mourn the loss of dreams without ever being aware that their very existence is the evidence of lives better lived.
Gratitude allows us to see that even when life is hard, there are things to be thankful for. Even the chance to choose between two hard options is more opportunity than many have. The choice to take a risk and the chance to fail and try again is a gift.
Gratefulness lets us celebrate what is, rather than mourn what is not. Brennan Manning says it well in his book Ruthless Trust:
“Scarred and screwed-up though we are, an appreciation of our greatness as Abba’s beloved child, vibrantly alive in Christ Jesus, overcomes the sleazy sense of our seedy self and elicits the grateful exclamation, ‘I thank you LORD, for the wonder of myself’ (Psalm 139:14).
And what about the families living in a form of slavery or digging through trash for items to sell? Is there hope for them?
What I have seen over and over again, are destitute lives fully submitted to God and living in the abundant hope of eternity with Christ. So that, even in the midst of their sorrowful lives, is hope, trust, and gratitude so deeply seeded that they find and hold onto joy no matter what. A joy that lets them smile when there is nothing to smile about except the fact that they are alive and that God has waiting for them the most precious gift of all: eternity with him. Not bemoaning the hand they have been dealt, although they have a reason, but celebrating a heavenly focused hope for an eternal afterlife of peace and goodness. Lives rooted in gratitude despite their circumstances. The result is that people whose hope and joy are fixed in Christ are as Manning has stated:
“Though they are burdened by economic problems, they are not overcome by them. They are more forgiving, more grateful and more likely to be unprejudiced, as well as twice as likely to be involved in outreach to neighbors…being surrounded by misery; they see opportunities to help on every side.”
I am asking God to create in me a beautiful, thankful heart.
A heart that seeks God and sees life through the goggles of gratitude.
A heart that rejoices in all circumstances.
“Rejoice Always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Jacqi Kambish is a Christian mom to three spirited children striving to balance the daily demands of parenting a child with special needs and meeting the needs of typically developing siblings while working full time and writing. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Bible Theology and Youth Ministry from William Jessup University. Jacqi lives with her family in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and enjoys reflectively writing about parenting, faith, and the joys and trials of life while leaving her readers with hope and encouragement. Her blog The Presumptuous Ladybug can be found atand you can connect with her on Facebook.