Spirituality of Gratitude
The Unexpected Blessings of Thankfulness
by Joshua Choonmin Kang
True gratitude is being grateful for everything. Being thankful for a wonderful situation is easy. But true gratitude is being thankful for the situation we can’t be thankful for by our own strength. That kind of gratitude can be found only by one who knows the paradox of grace.
One paradox of grace is gratitude for “descending.” We need God’s grace in order to conquer the summit. But coming down requires just as much of God’s grace. Think of an airplane. If the airplane descends carefully and safely, we call it “landing.” However, if the airplane loses control during the descent, as result of turbulence or other outside forces, we call it “crashing.” Likewise, if a person who has reached the leadership summit descends willingly, it is considered to be beautiful. On the other hand, if a leader is forcibly removed from the summit, it can be a humiliating downfall. We need God’s special grace in order to make a beautiful descent.
Leaders who descend beautifully, in God’s perfect timing, can experience his amazing grace like never before. There may be new opportunities for them as a result of descending well at the proper time, having even greater impact in a new endeavor. When we descend, we are offered a different view. A poem by Nobel Prize–nominated poet Ko Un describes this concept:
On the way down, I saw the flower I hadn’t seen on the way up.
Let us be thankful on the way down, for God’s hidden grace is at the bottom, and it is there that we understand hardship.
There’s unexplainable depth at the bottom that simply can’t be felt at the top, which is why those used by God’s hand all experienced severe hardships. And if we allow the rock-bottom experience to refine and redefine us, we can protect ourselves from falling from the top. Jesus’ cross is that low place, but that cross reaches to heaven. This is why I daily draw near to the low place of the cross.
Excerpt adapted from chapter three, “The Grace of Descending.”
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