Thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (MSG)
God’s Word is abundantly clear how important thankfulness is. For me, gratitude is a daily practice, one that transforms my life one moment at a time. But how do you give thanks when you’re in the middle of change, in the middle of grief, in the middle of a challenge?
Peace in the Storm
This is when the practice becomes most profound. Decades ago my sister-in-law was dying of cancer, my baby was very ill and had just gotten out of the hospital, and I was a physically and emotionally exhausted. I called a friend and began pouring my heart out, detailing all the suffering we were experiencing.
She very calmly said, “You need to write a gratitude list.”
I got quite angry and said, “There’s nothing to be grateful for.” She encouraged me to write 10 things that I was thankful for and to sit there until I was finished.
I sat down, and it took me two hours to think of 10 things I was grateful for. I was grateful for the ordinary things like having a house, food on the table, and my children. I felt some relief, and a bit of peace washed over me.
The next day I sat down again and began to write the things I was grateful for. This time it took me 10 minutes to think of 10 things .
By the third day my life force was renewed, and I chose to write down 100 things. My circumstances had not changed yet the eyes through which I chose to see my life did.
I still had moments of grief and sadness–still was experiencing challenges– yet by intentionally looking for what was working I found peace right in the middle of it.
Over the years as I continued my daily gratitude practice I became aware of so many blessings and a newfound joy arose. A joy that was not dependent on my life circumstances.
Then 6 years ago when we were challenged in ways we had never imagined I was led to a miraculous book that changed my life, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.
In it she details her gratitude journey in the messiness of life and talks about consecutively numbering her gratitude journal. She encourages readers to look for the gift in each moment, even in the painful experiences. She enlightens readers with the insight that each time she finds something to be grateful for, she discovers another way God loves her.
So in the middle of our deepest, darkest night, in a season of profound pain, I began at one, and each night I numbered the things for which I was grateful.
Today God has shown His love in 30,000 ways. Those painful life experiences have transformed in beautiful ways, and I see my life through the eyes of grace and gratitude. Are there still challenges? Of course! But each challenge is an opportunity to draw nearer to God and grow in character.
By simply pausing for a moment and looking for something to be grateful for, hope and clarity are restored. These moments can be spent appreciating the beauty in nature, what works in our body, and the love in our relationships. We can give thanks for the challenges, for the tears that cleanse our soul, for how we have grown through them, for what we have learned, for how resilient we are, and how God carried us when we were too broken to move forward.
Then the most delicious moments of all become full sensory gratitude for what we see, smell, taste, hear, feel and experience in this present moment, for in this present moment is where God dwells.
Today I give thanks to each of you. I celebrate your courage to walk through your life, and I give thanks for an ever-present God in my very human experience.
May you experience the fullness of God’s love and blessing as you begin to view your life through the lens of gratitude.