Tis the season to be thankful. In my book club yesterday, we talked about the importance of being grateful and what a difference it can make in our lives. Basically, thankfulness boils down to a choice, a decision to count your blessings instead of the pain. When you make a conscious effort to be grateful, sometimes even the pain becomes a blessing.
Far better minds than I have talked about the importance of gratefulness. The Apostle Paul often commended the early Christian churches to give thanks. I Thessalonians 5:17,18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.” Thankfulness is a recurring theme in the Bible. Even before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave thanks at the last supper when he knew what was to come.
Ann Voskamp, a present day author, comes to mind when I think about gratitude. I like this quote from her book, One Thousand Gifts, “…the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”
― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. If you’ve never read her book, I highly recommend it. You can read more about Ann on her website .
I speak from a place of experience when it comes to choosing gratitude. I look back on some difficult days of pain in my past with my journey with MS. It would have been easier to give in to the pain and fear, but I had to learn to choose to be grateful. Choosing gratitude becomes a habit that gives us daily opportunities to pattern out life after something more than anger and fear.
At times, it is still a challenge to embrace gratitude. I am presented about one hundred times a day with situations in which I can no longer function like I used to be able to. It’s so tempting to give into frustration, but I’ve learned that only feeds unrest in my soul and makes me angry. If I focus on being grateful for what I can still do, then peace takes up residence instead of angst.
Gratitude comes easy when your life rolls along fairly uninterrupted by sorrow and suffering, but like Much Afraid in Hannah Hurnard’s tale, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, sorrow and suffering were her best companions. They led her to a place of perspective where joy and peace were replaced with her previous companions.
I see gratitude as that point of perspective. It helps you look through the valley to the figurative mountain we all wish to summit. Choosing gratitude doesn’t discount the valley experience, it legitimizes it as a part of the journey, in which we become grateful even for the echoey, windy, and shadowy places of the valley.