We’ve all heard how important the practice of gratitude is when it comes to our emotional health. It’s easy to feel grateful when everything feels good and we’ve all made an effort to count our blessings at one point or another. But here’s a perspective of gratitude I don’t think you’ve heard before: Choosing to be grateful in the present. Not just think about the food you have or the clothes that you wear, but gratitude for whatever you’re experiencing right here, right now, even when things don’t go according to plan.
I know it’s sounds a lot easier said than done, especially if you’re going through something you don’t want to wish on anyone else. But how often do we think about the past and what we want to change? How often do we think about the uncertainty of the future? There’s so much in this world that’s outside of our control. Gratitude in the moment puts us right in the present.
You could see it as an extension of mindfulness, being more aware of what’s around you. It can be something as small as being grateful for the weather or the smell of a nearby flower or the sound of the birds. If you’re in a city, pay attention to the architecture of the buildings or whatever catches your eye. These are all things to be grateful for.
One other benefit of being grateful in the moment and mindful of our present surroundings is that, ideally, it compels us to put down our phones and actually pay attention. In spite of everything going on in the world, I sincerely believe we are lucky to be alive right now. I’m not saying the world is perfect, but I think being grateful for where we are right now can help us detach from the endless cycle of online debates and news of things that are out of our control.
Being grateful in the moment is a small drop in the bucket in terms of taking care of ourselves emotionally. Try practicing it today and see if it makes any difference. Put aside all regrets of the past and anxieties of the future. Be here now.
It’s not surprising that thankfulness for God’s mercy is said first because gratitude and mercy go hand in hand. We can’t be grateful without something to be grateful for and someone to thank. All gratitude and mercy begins and ends with God. It’s very much like a prayer said at the beginning of Adoration:
If you ever find yourself at a time when the attitude of gratitude is just not coming to you, come back to these reflections. There is always a time to find gratitude, even after we acknowledge all the negative emotions that come into our lives. As strange as that sounds, we can even be happy during the times we also feel sad or angry or lonely. The happiness I’m talking about isn’t the excited, bounce-around-the-walls kind of happiness a five-year old has. It’s a softer kind, one rooted in hope for better things. It’s not as bright as the sun, but more like the soft glow of a beautiful star or a small fire. Hope comes to you when it doesn’t really make any sense to have it because that’s when you need it most. Through living with gratitude, we cultivate hope, which nurtures our faith and our love.
Whether you’re struggling with a temptation, an addiction, hoping to lose weight or get fit, all of these things are rooted in a sense of self-worth. We can’t fight for others if we don’t value ourselves. I’m not just talking about appreciating the way we look on the outside, but learning how to define yourself. The greatest battle we’ll ever have to fight is the fight over our soul. Once we know how to define ourselves and understand who we are and whose we are, we will accomplish a great victory!
Think of somebody that you’ve lost, either through their death or because time drifted you apart. No matter how far apart we are from the ones that we love, we can be thankful the time that we had with them.
Forgiveness isn’t an easy thing. Some people think that forgiveness is a sign of weakness, as if saying that the bad things people do to us are okay. Others think “forgive and forget,” acting as if the bad things never happened. Neither of these perspectives are what forgiveness is really about.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them. Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright, for as they are, so are their neighbors also.
I love volunteering for Vacation Bible School at my local church. Two of the themes from Vacation Bible School centered on God’s providence. One theme was “Wilderness Escape” in which I taught the kids about the adventures of Moses and the Israelites in the desert. Through teaching the kids about God providing for the Israelites, I reminded myself that God will also provide for my needs. Every day in the week-long Bible School had a catchphrase and Wilderness Escape’s catchphrases ended with “Trust Him!” The VBS I volunteered at the following year had a similar theme. We went from the desert wilderness to the top of Mount Everest. Like the previous Bible Camp, the theme of Everest was to trust in God, this time using the catchphrase “Hold on!”
We are so used to the desire to be in control of our lives. We worry about what we’ll eat, the clothes that we wear, our work, and so many other things. Do we trust in God to provide for us? Do we hold onto him with the faith of a child? It’s not exactly easy!
This is not gonna be an easy reflection, sisters in Christ. Gratitude is something that can be found in happy times, in the lessons that we learn from the trials we face, through other people and the things we do for others. The hardest place to find gratitude, however, is when we find ourselves inside a dark pit of lies that tells us that God isn’t with us at all, that he doesn’t exist, and that our lives don’t matter. There are times in our lives where all we can see is a constant darkness and our hearts are burdened with a pain that feels unbearable. We don’t exactly feel sad or angry. In fact, it’s more that our emotions have completely shut down. In other words, we are depressed.
Today’s Psalm captures the despair within the people who have depression and anxiety. If you feel like you’re crying out and the Lord doesn’t seem to be with you at all, know that you are not alone in your despair.
Today’s passages reflect on being thankful for the trials and temptations we endure. The concept of being grateful for the bad things that happen to us and the struggles we deal with is a bizarre concept, I know. God doesn’t tempt us. He doesn’t will our pain or the pain others inflict upon us. Instead, he allows these things to happen to those he loves the most. Jesus, after all, was tempted in the desert for 40 days. We shouldn’t seek out temptation, but instead we should ask God for his protection.