It has often been said that having an attitude of gratitude will help us keep things in perspective. Even when we are in the midst of struggles, challenges, tragedy, and heart break, we can focus a bit on what we DO have and be grateful for those things. This is a difficult concept to remember when we are facing the realities of life such as broken relationships, health problems, family concerns, natural disasters, and the tragic loss of life of someone near and dear to us.
Just this week the events in Texas with the church shooting is a perfect example of how heart breaking it is when those who would do harm to others take the lives of innocent people. It is beyond my comprehension how anyone can “give thanks” in the midst of this tragedy . . . but one thing I do know is that no matter what we are facing, God is good and His heart is breaking over this senseless act of evil. And because we live in a broken, fallen, sinful world, there will be tragedy because we all have the choice to do right or wrong. So how do you have an attitude of gratitude in the face of such a disaster?
Or what about the hurricanes and flooding, and all of the aftermath of those natural disasters? We recently had a very, very minor flooding problem in our home and it has been so difficult to get through a day in the middle of the mess that was created. Our situation is NOTHING compared to what the people in Texas and Florida and New Orleans and all of the surrounding areas are dealing with. But even in our little inconvenience of a small flood from broken water lines, I was reminded of all those who have been wading through waist-deep water trying to save a lifetime of cherished memories that have been damaged, and in many cases, beyond repair. How do they have an attitude of gratitude? I don’t know. My heart breaks for them. So I carry on, praying for our nation and those who have been devastated by these tragedies and so many others . . . and I look for ways to be thankful even in the depths of despair, heart break, and disaster.
In thinking about all of this as we enter the season of giving thanks, I decided to put together a list of ways that we can focus on gratitude, no matter what is going on around us. I know it is never easy, especially if your life is in turmoil right now, but here are a few ideas that might help us get through a day and hold on to hope. God knows, He cares, and He will carry us through.
- Begin each day by claiming one thing in your life for which you really, truly are thankful. Perhaps it is that you have a safe place to sleep at night, or that you can take a walk or sing a song.
- Choose to focus on one person in your life who has been a blessing to you, whether it be a friend or a family member, a neighbor, a clerk at the grocery store, or an online long-distance friend.
- Search for one personal treasure that you don’t often notice. I have a few brooch pins that my daughters have given me over the years that I only see during the winter months when one of them is pinned to my coat. But I love them, and they remind me that I am loved by my daughters.
- Wherever you live, really look at everything around you and realize how blessed you are, no matter if your place of residence is large or small, humble or elegant, owned, rented, or borrowed.
- Pick up the next thing that you use, whether it be a spoon or an ink pen, a pair of socks or a jacket, your shoes or boots, a phone or a camera or a well-worn winter coat, and thank God for it. Even the smallest things in our lives are a gift from Him.
- Open the door and step outside. Or have someone nearby help you go outside and treasure the sights, smells, and beauty of God’s world. Even when all around us seems sad and dreary, there is God’s promise of this moment.
- Do you have a phone, a car, a computer, a television, or a radio? You can be grateful for these opportunities to connect with other people beyond the small confines of your life.
- While you are outside celebrating the beauty of nature, gather up a few objects that God has gifted us with in His world and bring them inside to remind you of His goodness. One thing we have done over the years is to press beautiful autumn leaves in the pages of a book and them use them to make book marks, cards, and other gifts.
- Are you in perfect health? Probably not, but why not think about your body and all of the ways that is IS still working? Perhaps your eyesight isn’t so great, but your hands still work well and you can write letters, or cards, or even write a poem or a story. Maybe your knees are weak but you can still sing a song or speak words of encouragement to someone else.
- Think about your loving “fur babies.” They just love you no matter what, and that is truly a reason to give thanks!
- What’s your favorite book? Why not share it with someone else and encourage them to read it, too? This is a perfect way to reach out to another person who might need a bit of encouragement, and for that you can be grateful.
- Even if everything in your life is falling apart, we can be grateful for those who have gone before us to show us the way. Perhaps there is a friend or a relative who has been an example of courage, hope, and faithfulness and you can tell them how much you appreciate them.
- We can be grateful for those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and liberty in the United States of America. Whether one feels that our nation is on the right track these days, we can still thank God that we still live in the land of the free because of the brave.
- Are you grateful that someone loves you enough to give you a gift . . . even if that gift has been sitting on a shelf or in a corner gathering dust for some time? We can be grateful that we are loved, and then perhaps share that gift with someone else who needs to know they are loved.
- Think about a movie or television show that has been meaningful to you, and then share that with a friend. There are so many inspirational films available now days that it is not difficult to come up with one of your favorites and then bless someone else by sharing it. You might even invite your friend over for popcorn and watch it together!
- Have you told someone else how special they are in your life? Perhaps there is someone who hasn’t heard from you for a long time that would be so happy to receive a letter, a card, or a phone call from you. That will give you an opportunity to express your attitude of gratitude and be a blessing to them as well.
- Although it is really difficult to focus on what you do have when you feel like you have lost everything, remember to look around you and be grateful for the little things in life – a cup of tea, your morning coffee, a friendly face at the grocery store, a smile from a neighbor, or the simple act of breathing. Sometimes that is all we can find, but we can be grateful for even the tiniest things in our lives.
- Are there people in your community who volunteer at the local food pantry, homeless shelter, or church youth group? If you are able, perhaps you can volunteer too and meet other people who are struggling through the brokenness of daily life. Or it might be that they would love to be an encouragement to YOU, and for that you can be grateful.
- Remember that one way to have an attitude of gratitude is to allow others to be a blessing to you! There are many organizations who want to help those in need, so don’t hesitate to give them the opportunity to give back to others in need.
- What’s your favorite music? Do you have a CD that you could share with someone else and let them in on the blessing? Stay focused on the gifts around you and share them with others, and you will have opportunity to be grateful.
- Remember that favorite book that you told your friend about? If you have finished reading it, why not pass it on? As difficult as it can be to find things for which to be grateful in the midst of difficulty or tragedy, sharing your life with someone else really will help.
- Look around at all the people you come in contact with every day. Perhaps there is a co-worker who works hard and does a good job – tell them how much you appreciate them. Or maybe it is the pharmacist who fills your prescriptions, or the mail carrier who stops by your mail box every day, or the people at the hospital who care for you and your family – they might be struggling, too, and a word of gratitude from you will be a blessing to them.
- On Thanksgiving Day, whether you are with friends and family, or if you are alone, remember that God is with you, He loves you, and no matter what is going on in your life, He will never leave you nor forsake you. And for that you can give thanks!