A Thankful Heart Gives Us Hope

One of the biggest attacks from 2020 has been directed at our sense of hope. How can you be hopeful and thankful when there is so much unrest and uncertainty seemingly all around? JoAnne Baldwin, marketer at PitchBook and marketing co-director for 4word: Seattle, writes candidly about how the COVID-19 outbreak opened her eyes to the importance of a thankful heart, even when gratitude seems like the least likely response.

The silence in my empty condo was crushing. Buses had been running with barely any passengers for days, downtown Seattle was eerily quiet. I returned home from work with an unsettledness that felt foreign and unwelcome. I scurried to Trader Joe’s and came back with more frozen foods than I’d purchased in a year’s time. I felt really alone. Fear can make uncertainty feel exponentially more weighty, and combined with an isolation that you didn’t ask for (or plan for), this evening in mid-March had me asking what to do and where God was in the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S.. In the next 24 hours, I packed things up and left, fleeing the city to find comfort and safety in the arms of my parents and in a state less populated. 

I never thought I’d be back living with Mom and Dad in my mid-thirties. The shift in location, pace, even in my daily interactions was significant. The first month home certainly wasn’t easy for any of us, but I responded in a way that was completely opposite to how I’d been raised and how I’d been functioning up to that point, foregoing a thankful heart, opting to shrink inward rather than look out and notice all that I’d been blessed with, despite the state of the world around us. I tried to fend for myself, like I was trying to do when I was back in Washington, and it served no one well.  

Looking back, this reaction was human, it was natural, but it’s not what we’re called to as believers. We serve a Savior who died for us to give us freedom, a hope, and a joy in knowing the battle is already won and we are called to be lights in this world. 

A thankful heart gives us that hope, and fuels us with that message. 

Within a couple of months of adjusting to life with my parents, I began recognizing that there was something missing—my propensity to notice God’s hand in little and big things had faded. In what had become rare moment in Scripture, I was struck with Paul’s words for the Colossians: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” I was neglecting my Lord, my Savior, and there was no overflow of anything, much less thankfulness. I decided something needed to change. Following a clarifying conversation with a friend who had been searching for a job for a long time who was living in uncertainty, far from her family, and in the world’s estimation, adrift, she mentioned to me she had been taking time daily to record what she was thankful for. 

My first response was, ‘I’ve done those gratitude journals before, I don’t need to do that.’ She challenged me to think about how I could begin being more deliberate in noticing the bright spots and the reasons to celebrate and express gratefulness, regardless of whether it was in a journal or not. I’m thankful for her persistence; the return to a rhythm of grace and a thankful heart has changed my attitude drastically. 

Now, months later, I’m realizing a couple of things about a positive attitude and how that deeply correlates with a thankful heart: 

Is the ‘be thankful and joyful no matter the circumstance’ conundrum solved with a single moment of clarity? By no means. But in recognizing this important reminder that we have control over how we respond to what happens in life, we have a responsibility to see the good around us. What are you thankful for today? 

JoAnne Baldwin is a Northwest-raised, Pepperdine grad, outdoor enthusiast, multi-sport athlete, avid home chef, and traveler. During the day, you can find her loving her job as a marketer at PitchBook, a data provider for the capital markets. She leads a team developing programs to influence product adoption and expand existing licenses, aiming to delight PitchBook customers every day.   

Throughout her life, JoAnne has been shaped by the positive mentors and peers who demonstrate integrity and intentionality. Her confidence is founded in knowing that all things come from God and it is an honor and responsibility to give generously and love others well. She aims both personally and professionally to be an encouragement to those around her.