Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
William Arthur Ward
As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder
You've never met an ungrateful person who was happy, nor have you ever met a grateful person who was unhappy.
--Widely attributed to Zig Ziglar
The other day a group I was sitting with was asked about barriers to our fellowship with God. There can be many, but a persistently challenging one that I've been convicted by over the last few months is a lack of gratitude.
Ungratefulness can creep in as comparison: "If only I were more like him", or "If only my life had more..." A lack of gratitude can sneak up on us with a sudden, "I wish I were..." It might be born of fatigue or discouragement: "Life would be so much easier if..."
No matter how it slithers, slinks, or slides into our lives, ungratefulness is an absolute happiness-killer and joy-stealer.
Zig Ziglar's observation really caught me up short. I've experienced way too many unhappy (discontented) days. Is this really true? If I'm unhappy, is it because I am ungrateful? Looking inside I had to say to myself, "Wow, too often this IS true - my focus has fuzzed out into what might have beens and if onlys or what ifs" - all unruly undertakers of my joy.
So I started a personal campaign to be grateful. Through the fall it was going reasonably well, and I can testify that it's absolutely true: counting blessings and being grateful leads to more happiness and a deepening of our confidence that God is at work, with a resulting contentment with what He's doing - one way I would define joy.
This month though, sinister Circumstance has reared his proverbially ugly head, as he so often does, and dag nab it - he is distracting and can really be downright scary! And fear can quickly make us ungrateful. Uncertainty can leave us wishing "if only." Difficulties can lead us to, well, counting our difficulties instead of counting our blessings, and pretty soon we're not sure that God is working, and we're definitely not content with what He's doing, and there goes our joy and the poor, tattered shreds of our happiness.
The antidote, which I must keep practicing, is not to make Circumstance go away! (I used to think that was the solution.) The antidote, which I am determined to keep practicing, is to be grateful. The odd thing is that gratitude reduces Circumstance to a little sniveling irritation that doesn't actually have very much power because, ta da! God IS actually working and He IS actually sovereign and He IS restoring and He IS redeeming and He IS my joy and He HAS blessed me with so MUCH for which I can be grateful. (And He IS NOT threatened by my issues with Circumstance!)
So today I'm grateful for the sunshine outside my office window and the children's voices on the playground. I'm grateful for my wife (!) and my children (!), my two quirky Bernese Mountain Dogs, my work at a Christian school in the mountains, the challenges of my work, and that we're having chicken nuggets for lunch. I'm grateful for my church, my co-workers, my somewhat-oddball-but-endearing community. I'm grateful for coffee this morning, and the sunrise. I'm thankful there are left-over cookies from last night's meeting. I'm grateful for each student here at school; I'm grateful for a phone call this morning with someone who believes in my work and is an active supporter... I'm grateful, I'm grateful, I'm grateful...
Circumstance is still here - he's over there in the corner shivering and looking miserable because I have stolen his power. And you know what? I don't even feel a little bit sorry for him.
Looking for your joy? See how many things you can find for which you can be grateful - I think you'll find it.