Even when we have many blessings in our lives, it’s sometimes hard to give thanks. Difficult situations can sit before our eyes like the lenses in glasses, influencing how we see everything in our lives.
The Bible teaches that we should give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This means we should be thankful even in the moments where the lenses of difficult situations (illness, unemployment, infertility, tough relationships, etc.) make the blessings in our lives appear dull or ambiguous. We can accomplish this by being intentional about cultivating thankfulness.
Ways to cultivate thankfulness
- Nurture relationships. Of all the blessings in our lives, the people are the greatest. We can spend quality time with our loved ones and let them know how thankful we are for them.
- Say “thank you.” In order to express our thanks to someone, we first have to identify things for which we’re appreciative. Thanking others on a regular basis can help us make sure we’re considering these things often.
- Give generously. Giving of our time and money helps us realize that we actually have things to give. We begin seeing just how much we are blessed!
- Keep a gratitude journal. We can easily see how many blessings we have when we take time to list them. We can review these lists in times of discouragement.
- Forgive. The bitterness of refusing to forgive commandeers the ability to be grateful—it becomes a thorn in our sides that we can’t ignore. Forgiving frees our focus so we can think about the blessings in our lives.
- Be kind. Smile kindly. Encourage a friend. Anonymously pay for someone else’s meal. Bake cookies for neighbors. Little kindnesses like these simultaneously improve our moods and give others things for which to be thankful. The Bible describes it like this in Proverbs 11:25: “…he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
- Volunteer. By serving at a homeless shelter, mentoring a teenager, or visiting a nursing home, we not only focus on the needs of others but we find opportunities to fellowship with other volunteers.
- Serve others. One of the easiest ways to take our eyes off our own struggles is to focus on the needs of others.
- Let go of the past. We can’t change the past. Wallowing around in disappointment and regrets gets us nowhere. However, we can learn from it, forgive when needed, and move forward.
- Focus on the positive. There’s almost always something positive—even if it’s small—that we can identify and focus on instead of mulling the negative aspects of our situations.
- Be optimistic. We can choose to view the glass as half full instead of half empty. We can do this with confidence because we know that God is for us and that He is working for our good (Romans 8:18-39).
- Avoid comparison. The grass will almost always appear greener on the other side of the fence. We need to make sure our side of the fence is green by focusing on maintaining our own lawns!
- Don’t make excuses. We often make excuses to mask our inadequacies and weaknesses. If we choose to be honest instead, we can confront our weaknesses and begin overcoming them. This progress is something about which to be grateful!
I pray that this Thanksgiving you and I will be able to see beyond the difficult situations in our lives and give thanks for our blessings. I’m counting my blessings and taking note of them. Which intentional action will you take today in order to cultivate thankfulness?