Gratitude in the Darkness



by Hadley Hustead



A few years ago the Lord encouraged me to start looking for Him in small places and ordinary moments. I was enchanted by the task and decided I would write them down every night before bed to keep record. It quickly became addicting— my secret game with God. I started to realize things like retrieving warm clothes from the dryer, using Windex on a dirty window, and breaking the spine of a new book were more than sensations, they were little gifts of joy from God. My new hobby of recognizing glory in the tiny things taught me that God is constantly and lovingly orchestrating moments of small joy and contentment around every corner.   

It is pretty easy to identify God in happy things. However, this year has been different because I became blind to those portals of joy. In January, I was diagnosed with depression. Although I was still surrounded by the joyous light of God, my vision became cloudy. I had become emotionally numb to almost everything. I was living in the dark. Robbed of my keen attention to beauty, I was worried that the Lord did not exist in dark. Depression took away the joy of the mundane gifts by which I was enchanted before. My diagnosis was the perfect opportunity for self-pity. Darkness invites the embrace of misery and encourages you to choose oblivion. The depression blinded me from seeing God in plain sight, so I had to search with a blindfold over my eyes. I trusted I would find Him because I was captivated by His relentless pursuit of blessing me when I started writing down His gifts four years ago. However, this time the lights were off so I had to walk by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying. I feared my heart was too broken.


Throughout this season, I have held dearly to Psalm 34:18, which promises, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” I was not sure how to ask God for help out of fear that I might be disappointed, but I trusted in my practice of gratitude. So I started searching, and—sure enough—He was there. My encounters with Jesus during my depression have been laced with a tender love. The Lord has guided me gently, loving me in a way I never thought I would need. God prepared my mother’s heart to tenderly care for me. He nestled me in a safe home so I could heal. He gave me three friends who selflessly loved me in my most fragile state. God has stopped at nothing to heal my broken heart and love me back into lightness. Through His divine healing and intentional love, I started to discover joy again.


My list of gifts has become a portal to discovering religious dimensions within seemingly trivial experiences. I have now recorded several thousand gifts. Whether I am consumed by sorrow, joy, or numbing darkness, writing out my gratitude gives me an avenue to rejoice in God’s relentless presence and magnificent glory. The simple, low maintenance task has transformed my life and rescued be from the self-pity of mental illness.

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