By Tom Acey (Guest Blogger — an occasional, supplemental blog on living a life of joy)
This blog is the fourth in my series entitled “The Road to Joy,” in which I have examined the nature of true joy, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit; and I have begun looking at the steps we need to take to experience this true joy in our lives. These steps were outlined in the book The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado, and they provide the perfect framework for what I call “awakening the joy within.” Each of these blogs delves into one of the seven steps for awakening the joy in our lives.
Always Be Thankful
The third step, which I will address today, “Always Be Thankful,” is more than just saying thank you to God for the good things in our lives. It means being so grateful for God’s presence in our lives that “we yearn for more of Him (we hunger and thirst).” Like Steps 1 and 2, this is an action step, because gratitude and thankfulness, by definition, contemplate action. Taking this step in my own life, was, once again, both painful and time-consuming.
Early on in my recovery I was introduced to the phrase “Attitude of Gratitude,” and I immediately reacted with resistance. Being focused on worldly gain and material success, I looked to myself and my own efforts as the key. To thank a higher power for my “blessings” of material success was anathema. I knew right away, also, that it required a level of commitment to change, more than just expressing the words or giving credit to another source, especially to God.
It has taken me nearly 40 years of recovery, along with conversion to being a Christian, to both embrace the “Attitude of Gratitude” and to become thankful in my thinking and behavior. It wasn’t until I came to understand the concept of grace, that I began to embrace gratitude as a part of my life. Yet my relationship with God remained distant.
But there is more to the equation, as I said at the beginning of this blog. It is a daily challenge to be so grateful for God’s presence in my life that I yearn for more of him. As most of us are accustomed to doing, I spend much more of my day focused on worldly tasks than I spend focused being thankful for God’s presence in my life.
I do start out my day with prayers of praise and thanksgiving, acknowledging God for who and what he is, e.g., Almighty, Gracious, Loving, Creator, and thanking Him for His creation, the gift of life and the gift of sobriety; and I include thanks for smaller things such as my home, food to eat, clothes to wear, health, friends and family. But as the day progresses, I seem to forget to say thanks for all the things that happen in my life, both positive and what we call negative.
Thus, while I start my day with action that brings to my consciousness a burning desire for God to be a greater part of my life, I lose focus as the day progresses, unless I see myself as doing “His work.” I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that most of us deal with the same results. So here are some suggestions on how to live a “thankful” life.
- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
- You may deny the very existence of God (as I did), but it doesn’t dilute the fact that He is in control. To quote Benjamin Franklin: “I have lived a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs the affairs of men.” Be thankful that He is in control.
- Be thankful that God is real, even in times when we wonder.
- Practice recognizing and being thankful for the small things in God’s creation, always remembering that He created everything. Make it a practice to pause for a minute several times during your day to acknowledge small blessings and thank God for them.
- Thank God that you were created in His image and with His nature, and for loving us enough to send His Son to restore the divine relationship that he had with Adam and Eve until sin came into the world by their disobedience.
- Recognize, accept and praise God for this ultimate victory and declare before Him that you live and breathe because of this victory.
Finally, try this exercise: Grab a pen and something to write on and note three things about God that you are thankful for – not things you’re thankful for but things about God Himself. For example, His graciousness for healing you from sickness, His faithfulness for hearing you when you call, or His generosity for providing for your every need. Write them down, then take note that none of those things about God will ever change, and you can always be thankful for this regardless of your circumstances. Then spend a minute in prayer, thanking Him for these gracious gifts.