Life can definitely be overwhelming at times. Often it seems we are just trying to navigate from the last crisis to the next one, thankful only for those brief moments in between battles when we can catch our breath and rest up for the next attack. With a sigh of relief that things are finally “back to normal”, we do our best to prepare for the upcoming assault. We are hopeful that if we plan carefully and make the right choices, we might be able to avoid future conflict all together. At other times, the struggle seems so constant, we conclude that we are helpless victims. It feels that no matter which way we turn, the result will be just another dead end.
If you’ve ever been there, then we’ve probably met! I certainly know what it feels like to stand before yet another burned out bridge, wondering what went wrong, wondering which way to go from here. If you happen to be at such a crossroad in life right now, have I got good news for you! You are not helpless or powerless! You can, with confidence, choose the right course. You can choose the path of gratitude.
I know that may sound like a bunch of spiritual mumbo-jumbo. When others suggested this solution to me, I thought, “What have I got to be grateful for?” I wanted someone to tell me what to do, not how to feel. However, I finally learned that it’s usually easier to change my perception, rather than my circumstances. In fact, that inward shift in my attitude and outlook is usually the only thing I have the ability to change. In retrospect, I’ve found it’s often the only thing that needs to change. Here are just a few benefits you can expect from choosing to be grateful:
Seeking gratitude can calibrate your compass. Knowing which direction to take can be difficult at best. It’s almost impossible without first establishing your starting point. Gratitude can help find the “you are here” spot on the map, by centering you in the present. A great mentor of mine called this “mastering the art of present tense living.” Our ability to make clear decisions can be clouded by regrets from the past or by the fear and uncertainty of the future. He pointed out that gratitude can be found only in the moment. “Right now” is usually ok, or at least manageable.
Seeking gratitude nurtures empathy. We can get so accustomed to focusing our attention on our problems, that it’s easy to take the little things in life for granted. As we begin to look outside ourselves, it soon becomes obvious that there are so many who lack the basic necessities of life. You can’t watch a TV commercial for Feed the Children without feeling compassion for their need, and gratitude for your abundance. Just this week, I found myself extremely frustrated that a traffic back up had delayed my trip by several hours. Then I learned the cause for the delay. A tractor trailer had swerved off the road, and had struck and killed a TDOT worker. He would never get home to his family again. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to safely arrive back home and see my wife.
Seeking gratitude builds faith. After I had been intentionally trying to maintain an attitude of gratitude for a while, it occurred to me that most of the things I were thankful for were blessings God had given rather than rewards I had earned. The more grateful we become, the more aware we are likely to be of our relationship with our Creator. In my career as a grandfather, I’ve been asked for and have given out countless pop cycles. A cheerful “thank you” will practically guarantee another, whereas a lack of gratitude will more than likely keep the freezer door shut! Therefore, I believe there is no greater way to be assured of a hopeful tomorrow, than to have a grateful today!
No matter what you may be going through, choosing to be grateful will, I promise, make the load a little lighter and the pathway a lot brighter. So what will you choose to be grateful for today?