Why can’t we be thankful? Why is having an attitude of gratitude so difficult? Even the most optimistic people have many days in which everything seems to be going badly, when nothing seems right. Indeed, there are awful things we have experienced, are experiencing, or will experience. Nobody is immune from trouble. In time, every person experiences intense grief, disappointment, or depression. It’s a necessary part of being human.
However, our culture does not deal well with trouble. It likes to gloss over it. For example, at DisneyWorld there is an exhibit which encourages its passengers to “turn that frown upside down!” Oh, if life were only that simple.
Even the Bible does not require us to be happy and smiling all the time. Instead, it challenges us to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:17). There is a big difference between a happy face and a thankful heart. Happiness is an instantaneous bliss. It’s a bit like pouring gas on a fire; it flares up fast, bright and hot, but it does not last very long. On the other hand, a thankful heart is a deeper joy, not mere emotion. It’s more like pouring a bucket of charcoal on a fire because it burns slowly, deeply, and for a very long time. Therefore, happiness is great for a moment, but thankfulness is eternally rewarding.
Furthermore, there is always something for which to be thankful, while there is not always something for which to be happy. For instance, at a funeral service, giggling is uncommon, but thankfulness is very common. Indeed, the glass may not be full, but it’s never fully empty either. Even in the worst of life circumstances, we are capable of finding legitimate blessings. There are even stories of victims in the Nazi death camps who speak of horrific circumstances and yet witness many things that merit thankfulness. In the classic book about the Holocaust, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom states, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper.”
On a daily basis, there are silver linings in the dull or bad times: Bored with life? Be thankful that you live in a peaceful environment with so many opportunities. Broke your wrist? Remember, tt’s just temporary. Thank God for modern medicine that will fix it.
On a daily basis, we tend to fear, fret, worry, & complain about the 5% of our life that is not well, and we ignore the 95% that is very well.
The fact is that we are each uniquely blessed. But we focus on how we are uniquely cursed. Shame on us. The cup is not just half full. No, we are certainly blessed.
We need to count our blessings. Literally, let’s tally up the 95% of life that is going well, running smoothly, and being taken for granted. Get out some paper and a pencil, and start writing as much as you can for ten minutes. Set it aside, then pick it up later. Keep working on it, until you’ve filled up the paper with detailed accounting of blessings. Then put it in a place to be found later. It’ll be a joy to review it unexpectedly.
Here are some life categories which will help the brainstorming process.
- Family Blessings
- Friendship Blessings
- Material / Monetary Blessings
- Educational / Occupational Blessings
- Physical Blessings
- Spiritual Blessings
- Life Goals Met
- Community Blessings
- Recreation / Leisure / Hobbies
- Blessings of the Mind / Imagination