An attitude of gratitude is a choice. It is part of my daily choice to die to self, and to live for Christ. It is a life changing conscious decision to chose life, to breathe life, to speak life, to live life to the fullest. Most of us find it easy to be grateful when we are blessed with good news, a happy occasion, the sight of a beautiful sunrise... but how many of us make a choice to find the blessings in heartbreaking situations, in difficult circumstances, in strife? Is it that we chose not to see it, are we too comfortable in darkness... or that it takes too much effort?
Does it take effort to climb a mountain? To the one who has never climbed one, yes... but to the one who practices, trains for it, and is focused on climbing that mountain, the more the climber is experienced, the less effort it begins to take. Either way, whether you've climbed that mountain before or not, you have the power to chose to climb that mountain. The more you climb, the more it becomes second nature. And... like a healthy heart, body and soul... it begins to feel great. An attitude of gratitude is like a high impact workout for your spirit. Even better, there are no monthly gym membership fees, and everyone can join at any time.
Not a single one of us are spared hardship. Jesus, the Son of God, was not spared -- He had to learn obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8)... So who are we to believe that we should be spared suffering?
"I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble. But be brave! I have defeated the world!" John 16:33
So if pain is inevitable, if we have no other choice but to face battles in our lives, why chose to prolong the darkness, the bitterness, the anger, the disappointment, the pain? Each expression of gratitude is like a candle in the darkness. As long as we find one flicker of light, of gratitude, the darkness is lifted. The more light we find, the less power darkness has over us. Fill your heart with light, and it will no longer have room for darkness. Rather than being overwhelmed by the darkness surrounding us, why don't we make the choice to find the light? If we're not making that choice, then we are effectively choosing to extend darkness. Perhaps the pain, the suffering, wasn't our choice... but what we do from that point IS a choice.
It's not just a choice, but a command:
"Consider it pure joy my brothers--be thankful my brothers when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2-4)
When we face trials, God tells us that we are to be joyful because the testing of our faith develops our perserverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4)
Too hard to feel joy in times of sorrow? Start with the smallest flicker of light. It is there, in the shadows, waiting to be discovered. Don't stop seeking until you find it, and once you find it, don't stop seeking.
On my way home a few Sundays ago, I struggled to see the light in the darkness for a few moments, so I started with the smallest, silliest light I could find, and worked my way up. It sounded something like this...
"Well, God... it's just you and me now. Today was especially difficult, Lord... help me find some good in it... even the tiniest thing (which are often the biggest things)..."
The first thing that came to mind? "I'm alive." How could I not be grateful?
Second thing? "I am breathing. I am breathing in, I am breathing out, and I continue to breathe." It's hard to be grateful when you're not breathing at all.
Third? "I am not alone, God, You are with me." Always.
The more time I spent focused on an attitude of gratitude, the easier it became, and the less power the darkness had. I even got really creative... "Well, Lord... I didn't have to do dishes, housework or laundry today... not that dishes are a bad thing, it just means we have served food... same with housework, it means we have been blessed with shelter... as for laundry, well, one could argue that laundry is good, especially if you're Canada in the wintertime, because it is an obvious sign that you do not belong to a nudist colony.... yeah, about that, Lord... are there any nudist colonies in Canada? But even nudist colonies in Canada would be grateful, for they'd have little laundry to do..."
It's not to say that eternally optimistic people aren't faced with challenges that are just as difficult as those being faced by people who struggle with gratitude. They just make a choice to respond differently.
What will your choice be?
"A Christian is one who majors in appreciation." -- John Versteeg