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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

what gratitude really looks like

This past Sunday, I stood in front of the church and sang “He is worthy of all of our praise” while my grandfather lay in a hospital bed in the ER with morphine pulsing in him and pain pounding through his body.

Tears fell in a torrent and silence gripped my throat as the lyrics went on, echoed by the congregation before me.

Faithful all my life

Blessings day and night

Countless reasons why

I'll praise You anywhere

Every promise kept

Goodness every step

Each and every breath

I'll praise You anywhere

I pushed a dampened curl out of my eyes and lifted my lips against a sob and sang once more with all the conviction I could muster: “I’ll praise You anywhere.”

I thought of each and every breath in my papa’s body and every day and night of his life that God had preserved him—and I knew deep in my bones there really were countless reasons why I’d praise Him anywhere.

Because even though my mom’s parents will be spending this Thanksgiving in a hospital four hours away, we all have so much to be grateful for.

We enter this season of gratitude and we start taking inventory of everything we have. Cataloging all our abundance and good fortune. And this is such a good, healthy thing to do.

But we don’t have to have anything to be grateful. We don’t need a list of blessings to be blessed. We don’t need everything to be perfect to have a reason to praise. In fact, our praise is so much more powerful because of our lack. Our weakness. Our sorrow. Our pain. Because of a dependence upon a God who gives…and takes away.

Gratitude isn’t being thankful for thankfulness’ sake. It’s praising God even in the moments where He seems silent and it feels like the windows of Heaven are bolted shut. It’s being grateful for who He is, even in the midst of the most difficult situation.

Gratitude isn’t dictated by circumstances. Praise isn’t preserved for perfect moments.

Gratitude and praise aren’t for what we have—they are what we have. They’re what we hold onto, what we live in, what we offer the God who has it all.

So I throw up my hands

And praise You again and again

'Cause all that I have is a hallelujah


And I know it's not much

But I've nothing else fit for a King

Except for a heart singing hallelujah


I’ve discovered that gratitude doesn’t always look like gathering with every precious family member around a big table with gobs of turkey and reciting what we’re each thankful for. Gratitude also looks like standing in the hospital hallway with people who gave up their Sunday to be with your family. It looks like your friend’s messy car as she drives you to the hospital. It looks like your other grandfather offering to stand in for prayer. It looks like a church surrounding you with hands outstretched. It looks like the eleven-year-old girl in the second pew with her hands raised as she sings along. It looks like people meeting you in the cold, windy parking lot. It looks like singing that same song to God and yourself in the bathroom as you pray it’s not cancer. It looks like sitting alone in an empty office looking at the cracked pavement outside the window and smiling and crying and thanking God over and over and over again because He is still good.

Sometimes you've gotta dance through the darkness

Sing through the fire

Praise when it don't make sense

Sometimes you've gotta stare down the giant

Worship from the lion's den

Sometimes you've gotta shout it from the mountain

Louder in the valley

Trusting that He's gonna get you there

Sometimes you've gotta welcome the wonder

Wait for the answer

Worship with your hands in the air

I'll praise You anywhere

lyrics from "PRAISE YOU ANYWHERE" & "Gratitude" by Brandon Lake

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