Have you ever had one of those days when nothing really goes wrong, but everything is just sort of “Bleh” like a glass of milk left out on the counter too long that starts to smell weird?
You know you should pray or study your Bible, but it all just seems like words. Usually you like those words and the ideas behind them, but somehow they are hollow right now?
When this happens to me I have found the best remedy is not to try and force myself to be more spiritually minded but to sit still and count my blessings. There’s something about expressing gratitude that always gets me out of my mental, physical, and spiritual funk.
Small things to be grateful for
One morning years ago, I was headed for work into New York City. It was just another regular day with nothing of particular interest going on, good or bad. As I was waiting for the above-ground subway to whisk me downtown, there was something about the way the sunlight glinted on the track that made my eyes sparkle. It was a tiny little glimmer of beauty in pretty drab surroundings.
I simply thanked God for the sunshine and the way it reflected off the track. My heart breathed a little sigh of relief from the everyday sameness of life. I started looking around at everything around me with fresh eyes. And suddenly I was off on an adventure. I decided to be grateful for everything I saw.
I was grateful for the sun itself, its constancy, its warmth, light, and power. I was grateful for it as metaphor for God’s unceasing love for all His children.
I looked at my shoes and socks… and was grateful. That was a first. I don’t think I had ever thanked God for shoes and socks before. But then my gratitude somehow went to a new level. Not only was I grateful for the shoes and socks I had on right then, but I was grateful for just the concept of shoes and socks. I was grateful for what they did and how available they were, the colors and variety of designs.
Just then the train came and, you guessed it, I was grateful for the subway and everything it represented. I was grateful for the people who imagined it as a possibility, designed and built it, and those who maintained and drove it and all subways everywhere.
My heart was starting to silently sing a few notes of joy.
As the doors opened to let folks exit and enter, I was grateful for the doors and the fact they opened and closed without a problem. And to take it to that higher level, I was grateful for the idea of a door behind the door itself. Doors let good things in. They keep bad things out. They represent safety. Same with the windows. They open and let in the light and the fresh air, but they close and keep out the cold. Doors and windows are metaphors for God empowering us to accept His love and be protected from evil.
Now, I know I had never thanked for God for doors and windows before. Something was going on. My thoughts were flying in a completely new direction.
During the 45 minute ride into the City, I expressed this same gratitude for all that I saw, people and things. And I tried to discern and be grateful for the spiritual essence of everyone and everything as well. By the time I arrived, my attitude had been completely transformed. My heart was vibrant with gratitude for everyone on the street as I walked the few blocks to work. I was grateful for the sidewalks, the gutters, the streets, the stop lights, the traffic signs, the shops, and on and on and on. I couldn’t help myself.
When I got to work I was so inspired that the day was a complete joy. I felt a mental and spiritual freedom I had not felt in many years, if ever. It all came from being grateful for the simple little normal things in life we so often take for granted.
Be thankful in all things
It’s easy to be grateful for the big, amazing things that come into your life, But there is something incredibly powerful in being grateful for the every day things and events that usually go unnoticed. It can be life transforming. Recently my wife and I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. I hope you will read this book. Voskamp tells how she was able to see the beauty in the simple things in life and be grateful for them and how this approach to seeing her world brought a sense of long needed peace to her troubled heart. Her goal was to find 1,ooo things to be grateful for. And then there was even more. Wow!
But what about when things go from bad to worse?
I agree. It’s harder to be grateful when life seems turned upside down and everything that could go wrong does. But that is the time when gratitude is the most needed and perhaps the most powerful.
Years ago I was deeply moved and inspired by The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. She was part of the Dutch resistance in World War II helping Jews escape. When the Germans found out they were not too happy and Corrie and her sister Betsy were carted off to a prisoner of war camp. Things were pretty bleak. No, they were miserable.
One day it was announced the prisoners would be transferred to a different camp. There were initial hopes among the prisoners that the conditions would be better. But once they arrived, Corrie quickly realized that things were just as deplorable as the previous place. In fact, things were worse, there were lice in the bedding. She bitterly complained to God.
Betsy took a different approach. Now, both Corrie and her sister were faithful Christians. That’s one reason they were trying to help save the Jews from the German soldiers. Betsy quoted the Scripture, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:19 KJV) She insisted that they thank God for the lice. Corrie thought her sister was totally crazy.
But she came to see that her sister was right. Because of the lice, the German guards would not come back into their area and the two sisters were free to carry on their Bible studies with the other women, which was of immense help to all the inmates.
Who knew that lice could be a blessing?
This story has inspired me many times to thank God for what seems to me to be something bad. But He turns it into a blessing. This kind of gratitude is not always easy, but it is doable.
What are you grateful for today?
Gratitude is like Windex™ because it cleans off the dirt from our spiritual vision and lets us see more clearly what God has already given us.
My wife has often told me about a woman she knew before we got married who stood up in church one day and said, “Gratitude healed me of cancer,” and sat down. My wife went up to her after the service to thank her and asked for more details. The woman explained she had learned to be grateful for every tiny detail in her life. She got to the point where she was grateful for the wrapper on the bag of bread. She looked at everything in her life this way. And she was healed of cancer, no chemo, no drugs, just gratitude.
Take some time today, and every day, to think about what you are grateful for. Look with fresh eyes at all the little mundane details of your life and give gratitude. You never know what the results will be.
I’ve only touched on a few things here. There is so much more to say about being grateful and the things I’m grateful for, but that’s it for now. As always, I’d love to hear from you. What are you grateful for? How has gratitude changed your life?
Blessings and with much gratitude for you,