It was way back in 1999 that I watched the Oprah Winfrey show and she spoke about gratitude.
Here is the gift of gratitude. In order to feel it, your ego has to take a backseat. What shows up in its place is greater compassion and understanding. Instead of being frustrated, you choose appreciation. And the more grateful you become, the more you have to be grateful for. (Oprah Winfrey)
Her suggestion was simple. Start a gratitude journal; find three things that you are grateful for every day. I remember my pathetic attempt, trying to find something to be grateful for. I spent almost a year examining my life and my attitude in search of a grateful heart. In the final analysis I realised that gratitude is a private affair, it happens on the inside – it has nothing to do with what happens in your reality.
I wasn’t pleased with my attitude – I identified feelings of envy, anger and pride. I had secret ambitions that made me competitive and full of strife. I feared losing my belongings, which made me materialistic and self-centred. My search revealed that my unhappiness was caused by many attachments I had in my life.
What is attachment? An emotional state of clinging caused by the belief that without some particular thing or some person you cannot be happy. (Anthony de Mello)
I was conscious that God was building my character through my circumstances. I was growing spiritually and my focus shifted from being a victim to finding happiness. I realised that gratitude is more than an emotional response; it is a conscious choice I have to make.
Gratitude is an attitude.
I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship! And I can’t worship without giving thanks. It just isn’t possible. When we choose the pathway of worship and giving thanks, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others. (Nancy Leigh DeMoss)
To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, and is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference. (Thomas Merton)
I remember thinking to myself that God’s Kingdom is upside down. Our contemporary culture tells us that we are entitled to good fortune, that we deserve the best. Yet, God connects our gratitude with our faith in Him. He gets us through the hard stuff in life, because gratitude forces us to look at God and away from our circumstances.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
I found other examples in the Bible where thankfulness is a prominent theme:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Thessalonians 5:16-18) – In all circumstances!
Give Thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:6) – God loves me and He is good!
I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, You brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit….You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks forever. (Psalm 30:1-12) – God is faithful in difficult circumstances!
Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28:6-7) – God protects me in hardship! He is full of mercy and justice!
Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (2 Corinthians 2:14) – He is with me even when I am persecuted!
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7) – He is with me through trials, He strengthens my faith!
I learned that when I am thankful, my focus shifts away from my reality and my pain. A grateful heart helps me to remember that God is in control. On a psychological level it makes me healthier and enables me to have proper relationships with the people around me. I realised that I could be grateful for difficult days, because difficulties help me to grow spiritually.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. (Melodie Beattie)
I am at a stage in my life where I am grateful for every mishap, every mistake, every failed relationship, because I know that those were the days where I learned precious lessons. Every action that was launched as an attack on my life was caught and re-directed by God. I learned about my limitations…
I don’t have all the answers; I don’t have capacity for unhealthy attachments. I learned to guard my thoughts and emotions, to make my requests known to God.
Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation. (Brian Tracy)
I still have a gratitude journal, and I found that it helps me to concentrate on finding good things in my ordinary days.
A grateful heart brings contentment. Contentment brings simplicity. Simplicity brings humility.
Humility is not a one-time lesson that comes when you have lost everything. It is a daily reminder of how far we have come, yet still short of who we can be through His guidance. Blessed is the soul that can recognize that he isn’t moving mountains, but God is for him. (Shannon L. Adler)
I don’t know where you are in your journey in life. I want to encourage you to start a gratitude journal. Summon your heart to be grateful, it will help you to get back on track.
A grateful mind-set can set you free from the prison of disempowerment and the shackles of misery. (Steve Maraboli)
Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings JOY and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you. (Eileen Caddy)
Life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time. (Ann Voskamp)
If you are anything like me when I started, you will soon notice that the grass has grown an inch, you will see the chocolate smudges on your child’s face, you will laugh at the joy with which your pet greets you!
You will find your happiness through your grateful heart!