The topic of gratitude keeps coming up this past week as I battle with physical and mental health challenges. As a Christian, I have been considering how one of God’s commandments is to be grateful.
For example, we are told:
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
“live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.”
“when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”
and we are promised that those “who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/78.19?lang=eng#18
But God doesn’t command us to be grateful because He desires or needs recognition or to feel appreciated. Like all His other commandments, this one is for our benefit and for the blessing of those around us. God’s commandments aren’t arbitrary, every law is meant to bless us, to bring us happiness and to empower and help us to become like Him.
I know expressing gratitude can bless the person who is thanked. We are all God’s children, and He wants all of us to be taken care of. When we express thanks to those who bless our lives, we bless theirs in return, reminding them of their worth and identity as children of God and giving them hope in their potential for good.
I also know that gratitude blesses the person who expresses it. This past week my best friend and I were both struggling with several burdens. She told me her stressors were all she could think about.
An idea popped into my head: several months ago, during another time of trial, another friend had shared with me that her effort to only express gratitude in prayer—without asking for anything—had lifted her heart during a difficult time. I had tried the same thing, and felt so much better.
So, I shared this thought with my best friend and we decided to both only express thanks for our blessings when we prayed that night. The next day was completely different than the previous day, for both of us. We felt so much less oppressed and stressed. I’m not sure how it works, but I know it does. Maybe it is just because it helps us refocus and regain perspective. However it works, gratitude really had the power to lift and lighten our burdens.
My friend and I also decided to read this speech together that focuses on gratitude: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/grateful-in-any-circumstances?lang=eng&query=president
In it, President Uchtdorf teaches:
“I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease…Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be….”
“Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”
“True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will….”
I especially appreciated when President Uchtdorf said that “In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know” including
“that in the end, we will have glorious, perfect, and immortal bodies, unburdened by sickness or disability; and that our tears of sadness and loss will be replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.”
Although mental illness is currently disabling my life, future healing and blessings are up ahead for me, and I’m so thankful that by receiving and expressing gratitude I can be reminded of that and strengthened to keep going.
I received power from gratitude in another way this week. A reader sent a message thanking me for a post I had written (https://mentalmormonmusings.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/when-you-feel-like-the-least-of-these/) and it made my day. It did more than that, it helped lift me in a big way. There was power in her expression of gratitude that made a real difference in my life.
Autumn—the reader—thanked me and told me how what I had written had blessed her. But I felt like the more blessed individual.
Autumn had no idea that I have been suffering with depression and hopelessness. She didn’t know that just yesterday I felt like a completely worthless person because of how debilitating my PTSD is and how it has been keeping me from being able to find employment and achieve my desire for self-reliance.
She may not have thought that sending a message of gratitude was that big of a deal, but it was! It made me feel like I was contributing, in a small way, to the good in the world, and that maybe I wasn’t so worthless after all. It made me feel like my life is worth going on living.
I know that gratitude can lift any soul and that it really is a power. We can lift other souls by expressing gratitude to them, which can influence them to express gratitude to others, and the happiness from gratefulness can spread around the world, lifting a countless number of people.
We can also lift our own soul by expressing gratitude, both to God and to others.
I’m so thankful God has given us this commandment and this gift and power of gratitude to help us and others during our lives here on earth.
If you want more power and strength to bear your burdens and push through your trials, try this experiment: express gratitude, for things past, present, and future. I know it will help you.