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Gratitude Journaling for all Emotional States

October 2, 2020

What’s your emotional state?  Are you exuding gratefulness?  Are you just going through the motions?  Are you in the depths of dispair?  God has a word for YOU on how to find or remain in a heart of thanksgiving.  Gratitude journaling is for all!

gratitude journaling for all emotional states

What is Gratitude Journaling?

Before I really start talking about gratitude journaling, we need to all get on the same page as to what gratitude is…

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

While I think that’s a great definition, I believe it’s missing a little something when it comes to gratitude in relation to journaling.  It’s missing the “who.”  Who are we grateful to?  Are we grateful to an ambiguous power?  Are we grateful to a person?  I think it’s important to remember that, when we’re journaling our gratitude, we are being thankful to the Lord!  That changes everything!

Even if we’re all in the same place as to the definition and the who…  I know for a fact each of you reading this post are at different places in your life when it comes to processing what you’re grateful for.

Some of you are probably reading this while in the depths of despair.  You’re literally doing all you can to hold yourself together, unable to think of a single thing you’re grateful for.  You’re reading this post and praying it will help you find gratitude somewhere in your heart.  I’ve been there.

Some of you are probably reading this, knowing that things are going pretty ok in your life, but not really considering the gifts God is lavishly blessing you with.  I’ve been there too.

Some of you are probably reading this, thinking about shutting down your computer without finishing the post because all you want to do is dig into your gratitude journals.  Your heart is overflowing with thankfulness to the Lord and you want to express it in the fullest.  I’ve been there too.

Gratitude Journaling While in the Depths of Dispair

Two and a half years ago I was in the first group – I was living a nightmare.  My dad had lost his life to suicide and my depression was at the worst I’ve ever experienced.  My heart and spirit didn’t know how to process it.  I was in a darkness I can’t even explain.  I felt as though there was nothing to be grateful for.  If I had been encouraged to gratitude journal, I would have scoffed and then cried.

What does it look like to focus on gratitude when your life is falling apart?  I’m not going to give you false platitudes or tell you to fake it till you make it because that’s not helpful.

Instead, I encourage you to journal scripture.  You feel as though you have nothing to be grateful for but God’s Word tells us otherwise.

There are so many passages in Scripture that cry out to God with a weird mixture of lament and thanksgiving but the passage that ministered to me in my pain was Psalm 13.

Psalm 13

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.

I love how, in this Psalm, David acknowledges that he’s in the depths of despair.  He feels as though God’s face has turned away from him.  I know that feeling.  But he doesn’t stay there.  He ends the Psalm by giving thanks.  He says he will trust in God’s unfailing love and rejoice in salvation for God has been good to him.

If you can’t think of anything you can journal today, I would encourage you to journal scripture.  Journal passages like these that speak words you can’t even put into words.  Journal verses that speak truth and thanksgiving even in the midst of suffering.

Gradually, as you do this, your heart will change.  It’s hard to believe but I promise it will happen.  As I spoke these words of David to the Lord in my suffering, He began changing my heart.  Instead of being grateful for nothing, I realized how grateful I was for my husband and his gentle, understanding spirit.  I was grateful for the night after night that he took over solo parenting so I could lay in my bed, drenched in tears.  I was grateful for the wisdom he spoke into me when I couldn’t process anything.

Slowly the Lord showed me more and more things I had to be thankful for and I had to physically write them down so that I could come back to them when I would inevitably forget again.

You ladies in this boat – know you are loved beyond belief.  Hold onto the Word of God and write it out.  Write out any little thing you have to be thankful for.  As the list grows and grows you will be reminded of what an amazing God we have!  It will become a lifeline for you.

Gratitude Journaling When You’re Coasting Through Life

Ok, now, for you gals who are living an average life.  Your kids are crazy…  Because all kids are crazy.  Maybe your husband forgot an important date and you’re annoyed with him….

You’re having a hard time thinking of too many things you’re grateful for, not because you’re suffering, but because you’re just kinda doing life.  You think you might write a few things down in a gratitude journal but then it will get stuck in the back of a drawer and you’ll forget about it and go on with life.  Don’t let that happen!

All of us have our annoyances but I’d encourage you to use those annoyances for good.

I think of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Give thanks in all circumstances.  Even when your kids are throwing the 100th tantrum of the day?  Yes.  All circumstances.

If this is you, I’d encourage you to actually write down the top five things that are annoying you today.  Weird, I know, to be writing down annoyances in a gratitude journal.

Now, with each of those five annoyances, write down five things you’re grateful for in those situations.  You kids are driving you crazy but you are grateful that they are all healthy, that your three year old finally figured out how to poop in the potty, you could even write down that you’re thankful that there’s a preschool you get to send your kiddo to three times a week.

As you start reframing your annoyances into thanksgiving, make sure you don’t stop there.  Pray about these situations, thanking God for them, and asking Him to help you continue to change your heart into a heart of thanksgiving, not a heart of annoyance.

What to Do When You’re Overflowing with Gratitude

Now, for the last group of you – the group overflowing with gratitude – Praise the Lord for that!  What a fantastic place to be!  I’m not exactly sure why you’re reading this post because I don’t think you’re needing tips on how to let your words of thanksgiving flow from your pen.  I encourage you to pour out your thanksgiving to the Lord for all the amazing blessings he has showered on you!

Once you’ve done that, I’d encourage you to pray about someone to share your thanksgiving with.  Don’t keep it locked in a journal.  Throughout scripture we are encouraged to bring others into our thanksgiving.

Psalm 9:1 says “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”  Your season of thanksgiving could be happening in part to bring others alongside you, into an attitude of thanksgiving.  You could be a blessing to so many if you humbly share all the wonderful things you see the Lord doing in your life.

No matter which of these groups you’re in today, I pray that your spirit will be renewed as you write out the things you are grateful to the Lord for.  There’s no better self care than remembering how amazing our Heavenly Father is and spending time focusing on Him since He cares for us more than we could possibly care for ourselves.

What emotional state are you in?  How will your practice gratitude journaling through it?

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