It’s so easy to feel thankful when life is going well, isn’t it?
The kids are playing happily in the yard – the sound of their laughter floats through the air. The air itself is warm with a gentle, cool breeze that plays with your hair. All of the bills are paid, and you can start to smell the evening meal as it’s cooking. Your husband just got home and gives you a quick kiss before he goes to wash up for dinner. Life is good and you offer up a quick prayer of thanksgiving.
But what happens when life becomes difficult?
The children are fighting, someone gets hurt, and you’re exhausted. The sky is overcast and gloomy. You realize that you don’t have all of the ingredients you needed for dinner, and it really should have been started 30 minutes before. You decide to load the kids up real quick to get what you need for dinner when you realize that your tire is flat. You have all of the kids unload as you call your hubby who, you find out, has also had a stressful day at work. Somehow you get caught up in a petty argument, and you end up in tears. This is not how you thought life would look, and you sit, paralyzed by the discouragement that has invaded your soul.
What if I told you that there was an opportunity for gratitude in that second scenario as well?
In every circumstance you will be faced with two choices.
You can choose hopeful gratitude or you can choose despair. This doesn’t mean that you have to pretend that life is all sunshine and roses, because it isn’t. It does, however, mean that you choose to look to God’s goodness in those moments of misery, just as you would when all is going well.
Before you start to panic, please know that this takes time. This attitude of gratitude is like a muscle that needs to be worked and exercised. There will be days where you won’t be sure if you are making any progress, but please know that you are. There will also be days where it will seem that you are failing miserably, but be encouraged by that fact that our God is a God of mercy.
There is a simple exercise that you can start right away to help you strengthen this muscle:
Catch yourself in your worry or complaint, and then ask yourself how you can turn that worry into an act of thanks. Yes, those first few times may be an awkward mumble of “thank you, Jesus?” However, I promise that it will start to feel more natural as you continue to practice this. Then you can take it a step further by going through the exercise that we went through in my blog post about how to start to trust God.
The goal isn’t necessarily always to FEEL a sense of gratitude.
…although that does come more often as we practice this. The goal is to choose a spirit of gratefulness to Our Lord who is all good and truly wants good things for His children. The goal is to develop a relationship with Him and unify our will to His will. The goal is to train even our thoughts to God. Through this, we will be able to look to God and say, “Thank you for everything!”