When things are terribly tough, when all the world seems to be crashing down around you, what can you do? One thing you might do is gaze at those hard circumstances and “fold,” letting in to your mind pain, despair, and worry. But that mind set does you no good. There is an alternate choice, and that is to practice being grateful for what you do have. Gratitude can help you through the hard times.
In faith-based recovery, one of the heart attitudes we encourage is gratitude. Why is that? It is because when you’re grateful, it’s hard to feel sad. It’s hard to feel self-pity.
Gratitude Helps You See the Good Things
This story has been told many times, but it is a good one – worth telling a lot. Christian leader Corrie ten Boom and her sister were prisoners of the Nazis in World War II. They were Christians and they managed to smuggle a Bible into their barracks.
In those barracks were fleas and Corrie remembered being very grumbling and angry that on top of their suffering there were even fleas to bear.
In the barracks, the two sisters held Bible studies and led many women to Christ. They knew that if they were discovered doing that, they would probably be savagely punished. But the guards let them alone and they were free to evangelize.
Why was that? It was the fleas! The guards did not want to be infested.
Corrie recalled later that her sister had encouraged her to cling to verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:18,
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
She had not been able to understand how one could be constantly grateful especially in a concentration camp. But then she saw how even a bad thing might be good in God’s hands. It was protection and a source of blessing.
Being Grateful Helps You to See God’s Hand
When you begin to look at the littlest of things in your life for which you are thankful and make a mental or actual written list, your outlook changes.
“Things are not so bad,” you may find yourself saying.
Or, “God is looking out for me…look, I have this and this and this and this that is going right. And in His love, I have re-framed the bad things. I also wait for His deliverance because He is worthy of my trust. He has come through before. He will do it again.”
Your mood lifts. The darkness grows lighter. The world seems brighter and warmer and more full of possibilities. And this good feeling grows even more if you remember to thank other people for what they do – even their smallest acts of kindness and courtesy
As Don Postema writes, “Gratitude takes nothing for granted. It acknowledges each favor, each gift—both big and small. It also recognizes the giver—the relative who shows her love by giving you a gift; the friend who remembers to call you; the person who gives you a compliment or goes out of his way to invite you to go for a walk on a beautiful day; the spouse or friend who brings you a cup of coffee when you’re exhausted, cooks you a fine dinner, or throws a party for you.'” (from article by Leon Johnston on network.crcna.org, 11/16/2016)
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
Gratitude Helps You to Feel Joy
I love some words of wisdom from writer Norann Voll, in an article she wrote called “Five Ways to Practice Gratitude.” She was referring to practicing it in hard times where every bit of your flesh tells you logically that you ought to feel bad and victimized. She said that as she began to practice being thankful, even keeping a journal of grateful thoughts, her state of mind could really be changed. Yes, even in very hard times. These are her words:
“Finding one simple thing to give thanks for, and writing it down started a chain reaction. I found another and another. I wrote each one down in a numbered list. I began inch by inch to move away from the void and into a place of relative OK-ness, then hope, and finally joy.”
(from Norann Voll on Bruderhof.com, Oct. 22, 2019)
At this time, spring of 2020, people in recovery are particularly struggling in this pandemic with the confinement and job loss. Pray for those who are in this situation and for those ministering through faith-based recovery. Robust faith in Christ is the answer and the need for all of us. We can be supernaturally joy-filled, survive, and thrive by being grateful.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18