How to Cultivate Thankfulness

Sherry Shepherd's picture

 

This November you may find yourself in a place that isn’t familiar. Maybe you are struggling or in pain. Perhaps you are grieving or fighting a disease or trial unbeknownst to others. It might feel hard to be thankful.   

However, I would challenge you to redirect your thoughts for just a moment. As you reflect on your life, as I often do mine at this time of year, it can be easy to get stuck. We may focus on what we haven’t accomplished yet, what we don’t have, or our problems, pain and misfortune. We forget to reflect on God’s goodness, experiencing a grateful heart. But you might be asking, “How are we supposed to be grateful when we are experiencing suffering? 

Thankfulness is a choice.... did that hit you in the chest? It did me when I was first told it. Thankfulness goes against our natural tendencies. It happens by intentionally changing our focus.  

As November begins, I feel a shift in my spirit. I immediately begin to anticipate the holidays, family, food, baking, leaves, cooler temps and celebration. However, as I have mentioned before, I am a single divorced mom of three grown children, two of whom live in other states. With all of us working and living in different places etc., it is very difficult to get together. Add to that the fact that holidays are split between families and divorced parents and well you do the math. I don’t get much time with the people I enjoy the most in my life. I also deal with ongoing-chronic physical pain. I have a destructive type of arthritis that eats away at my joints. Many times, I miss out on life and things I want to do because I know that I won’t have the stamina I need the next day for the things I have to do.  

Suffice it to say that pain is not a stranger to me in any way. I understand it from the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects. It isn’t easy. So often I will feel excitement about the holidays, quickly followed by sadness or grief over what was or what isn’t any more.  

Have you ever done that? It’s easy to do.  I will get down is because my focus becomes me, instead of Christ and what He has done for me. I forget to count the blessings I do have in my life.  

We are our own best audience. We know our aches and pains better than anyone else. But if we take a moment to take our eyes off our wounds and instead cultivate a spirit of thankfulness, our attitude will change and so will our outlook.  

I can’t help but think how Thanksgiving is a precursor to the Christmas season. It should be a launching pad for us to celebrate the gift of eternal life that Christ’s birth, death and resurrection secured for each of us. Christ was born in a manager, surrounded by animals and smells unbefitting a King.  

He lived a life serving others and died a gruesome death crucified on a cross so that you and I would not have to suffer eternal separation from Him. Because of His resurrection, death was conquered, and He did it all out of love.  Some will have deliverance from their pain, trials and suffering here on earth. Others will ultimately experience it eternally.  

But even in that suffering God is perfecting us. He is molding us to be more and more like Him—filled with His attributes. So   

Despite how we may feel or the circumstances we find ourselves in, one constant is that in Christ, we will have ultimate deliverance. While some may experience freedom here on earth from their difficulties, pain or trials, we know that others will only find it when they experience it in eternityBut even then, we know that we can be thankful because we will get to spend eternity with Christ where there is no more pain, suffering, longing, envy, jealousy or hurt. Just imagine that!  

So, I ask you, as you contemplate Thanksgiving and all that the world says it should be, what is your focus and what can you find in your heart to be thankful for this season?  

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you

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