One morning, I was in a funk. I was tired, and I had a busy day coming up. On top of those everyday complaints, a snowstorm had blown another few inches of snow into my town, and I was not feelin it anymore. While I ate breakfast and got dressed, I brooded on all the things I had to do and how un-excited I was. By the time I sat down with my Bible, I felt pretty indifferent to whatever the day had in store.
I happened to have a little study about gratitude from a Cru retreat I had recently gone to. The bulk of it simply gave prompts to inspire you to give thanks for different categories of things. And so, I started. Sitting with my disgruntled-ness about the world and the snow and my sleepy eyes, I cracked open my journal to give thanks.
The prompts surprised me. It didn’t result in your run-of-the-mill list. There were three prompts for the area of faith: salvation, sanctification, and glorification. I wrote down specific things I love about my faith story. Then, there was a prompt for each of the five senses. It inspired me to write about my favorite little things in life. The last prompt was my favorite, though. It had me write detailed things I appreciate about the people I love.
After half an hour of soaking up all the good things in life and thanking God for them, I felt way more peaceful and prepared to look for the good in the day.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, that’s great. You did gratitude and it worked. How cute.”
And I get it. When I’m in a bad mood or bad situation and I’m told to count my blessings, it’s irritating. Gratitude can feel like a band-aid prescribed to cover up all your worries. I'd rather either 1) figure out what to do to fix the situation or 2) just stew in my bad mood.
But giving thanks does something unexpected: it draws you out of yourself. When you take a wide-angled look at your life and all the good in it past and present, it’s hard to feel entitled to complaining. And on top of that, we don’t have to feel vaguely grateful to the ‘universe,’ but we get to pray to our Creator and thank him specifically for every good thing!
One cautionary, though. Even in gratitude, we can feel a bit proud. “Look at all the good stuff God’s given me!” We can start to feel that we deserve the good life we have. I got a little giddy just looking over my long list. Let’s humbly remember that even our breath is an unearned gift! This is the whole point of gratitude: to realize that God has been good to us in ways we don’t deserve. He blesses us out of his love, but his love isn’t any smaller for someone with less money, friends, or education.
More than a list
In the end, giving thanks is about so much more than scribbling down a list and feeling better. For gratitude to really shape our thinking and our lives, we have to re-program our brains. We strive to go from complaints and worries to awe and joy at the smallest things.
Gratitude should transform our prayers, too. Instead of running to God with a list of requests, we can take a few minutes to just sit in his presence, admire him, and thank him. For years now, I’ve started my morning prayer with “Dear God, thank you for this day.” Even when it feels repetitive, it does remind me that the day is a gift. It reminds me to be humble. Prayer is the first step to any kind of transformation!
So, all that to say, giving thanks is powerful. Even if you feel like it’s a cliché or you’d rather not take the pause it requires, I recommend it in any and every situation. Let’s recognize the graces the Lord has given us!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!