I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling with gratitude. Why isn’t unshakeable gratitude my natural state? It isn’t as if I’m unaware of my innumerable blessings. If I am thirsty, I turn on a faucet. If I am hungry, I go to the refrigerator (or a restaurant). When I need money, I reach into my wallet (or my husband’s). Should I need medical treatment, I can visit a doctor without a second thought.
So what gives? Shouldn’t my forehead be forever pressed on the ground in thanks to the One who Sustains? Why is it so difficult to feel grateful for the everyday blessings that surround me? Well, I think because it is just too damn easy to take it all for granted.
Hardship, enter stage left!
Three weeks ago, I began to notice a dull ache in my hips. I popped ibuprofen like candy, but the pain carved out a home in my bones. Since I’m usually quite active, I went to a hot yoga class thinking the stretching would render me limber and pain free. Wowza — I was dead wrong.
The next morning I woke up barely able to walk. My entire left leg was numb and tingly down to my foot, almost as if both of them had ‘fallen asleep’. Sharp pain was centered underneath my knee cap, and my lower back felt screwed into place. Cue panic.
Throughout my life I’ve broken various bones, been stung twice by sea urchins, and embedded glass shards into my hand — but, God help me I’d never been this terrified. Naturally, I took my worries to the universal emergency hotline…Mom. A nurse practitioner in an intensive care unit, my mother was unfazed by my complaints. She explained that the paraesthesia was most likely caused by a pinched nerve in my back, and would take time to resolve itself. My body’s betrayal shook my soul. I was only thirty after all. I carry around a little more weight than normal, sure…but who doesn’t these days? And I’d always been active and maintained my fitness levels.
God, why did this happen to me?
I lugged my sob story along to visit relatives, and was shocked by their responses. Every single one of them had experienced back pain or paresthesia. And no they weren’t just a bunch of old people. My aunt had surgery on a pinched nerve near her shoulder in her forties. My cousin’s wife had a pinched nerve in her neck that necessitated monthly chiropractor visits, heavy doses of narcotics and muscle relaxants, and left her three fingers numb during pregnancy — all in her late twenties. Even my own brother had similar back troubles — at age eleven! My cousin’s knee injury had pressed on his sciatic nerve causing numbness and pain, shortly after his thirty-fifth birthday. All of these folks had been suffering right under my nose…and I was oblivious. Why? Because I wasn’t in their boat. I sailed right by their troubles without reflecting on reality — I was spared. Pain opened my eyes to the blessing of good health.
ما شاء الله
It also reminded me of this hadith:
The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “Take benefit of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before your preoccupation, and your life before your death.”
None of us are immune to ingratitude. Examine your current struggles and life situation.
What are you taking for granted?
Are you unconscious of those that are suffering around you?
We all have struggles, but many times we allow our suffering to blind us. Our hardships do not negate the fact that we are blessed. On the contrary — they validate it.
There are many Qur’an verses about gratitude…
2:152 “Therefore remember Me. I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and never show me ingratitude.”
4:79 “….Whatever good, (Oh man!) happens to thee is from Allah, but whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) soul…”
14:7 “…If you give thanks, I will give you more…”
25:62 “And it is He Who made the Night and the Day to follow each other: for such as have the will to celebrate His praises or to show their gratitude”.
31:12 “…Any who is grateful does so to the profit of his own soul…”
Gratitude isn’t just a mindset, it is a practice. Practice thanks for it all: good and bad. Use gratitude as a daily devotion. You’ll never know what blessings a grateful heart can uncover.