Not long ago I went to the funeral of a dear friend who died from cancer. She was a remarkable woman! Her husband spoke at the service about his habit of every morning waking up and giving thanks for three things. His suffering was agonizing, watching his wife die, and yet he spoke of giving thanks every day. His practice of gratitude had shaped his life, enabling him to endure terrible hardship. What an amazing testimony!
Consider the compelling witness for the practice of gratitude in the Bible:
- The phrase “Praise the Lord” occurs 185 times in the Bible.
- 11 different Psalms both begin and end with the phrase “Praise the Lord.”
- “Give thanks” occurs 85 times.
- Jesus gave thanks before His last meal, even though He knew the very next day He was about to die.
No habit can so transform our lives as the habit of gratitude. By learning to be grateful when we don’t feel like it, we come to experience feelings of gratefulness more often. Being a thankful person changes us, and brightens everyone around us. It’s infectious!
The mistake we so understandably make is thinking we have to feel grateful to be grateful. Feelings are like a wild stallion. Untamed, feelings can wreak havoc. When we learn to gently guide our emotions, without denying their reality, they become potent forces for health. We do this by acting in the direction we want to move. With time, our feelings will follow our actions. Giving thanks, even in the hardest of times, embodies this practice. As hard as it is to put into practice, the most difficult trials of life would be borne more peacefully by developing the habit of regularly expressing gratitude.
We can begin today to practice gratitude. Real opportunities are all around us for which we can give thanks. Here are seven specific ideas for making gratefulness a defining part of your life.
- Where you are right now, repeat in prayer seven times slowly, “Thank You, God.”
- Pick the area you are most inclined to complain about and decide for one week not to utter a single word of complaint.
- Work to develop the habit of saying “thank You for this day” to God when you first wake up and when you turn out the lights at night, even if you do not feel thankful.
- When you find yourself angry, depressed or overly anxious, stop and dwell on one specific thing for which you are thankful.
- Journal, or write on a post-it note, one specific thing for which you are thankful for each of the next 30 days.
- Write a “thank you” note to someone who has made a difference in your life.
- Read Psalms 100 – 150, one each day, for the next 50 days.
These suggestions are not hacks or tricks to avoid reality; they are intentional decisions to sway our feelings in the direction of health.
Now that you have seven specific ideas about growing gratitude in your life, pick at least one and commit to putting it into practice.
Thanks for reading this post!