It’s November now, and that means Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This year may look different for many of us. Perhaps Thanksgiving dinner will be enjoyed via zoom, BYOT style (bring your own turkey)?!
It has been a very difficult year with the social unrest, pandemic, and the many loud opinions surrounding the election. It’s a little more difficult for me to think of the things I’m thankful for. Maybe I’m just grateful that 2020 is ending soon!
Nonetheless, I always love reflecting on the bible’s message of gratitude.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Despite the year we’ve had, it’s God’s will for us to be thankful. Why would God tell us to be grateful in all circumstances? Is that even possible?
A while back I read a book called Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. It was through this book that I learned gratefulness is the weapon we use to fight anxiety and depression. It makes a lot of sense. The more we reflect on our blessings, the more positive our thinking is, the lighter we feel emotionally, and the more joy we can experience daily.
Once I learned that gratitude was such a powerful tool for my mental health, I understood why God teaches us to be grateful in every circumstance. But I still didn’t quite know how. If you’re like me, it’s easy to give praise when all is well, but not as easy when you’re going through a trial. I wanted to have gratitude naturally ooze out of me, so I started my journey of learning how to be grateful in all circumstances (one I’m still working on, by the way)!
Every morning I wake up in our dark room, and stumble to find my contacts. My prescription is -4.5, which means I can’t read a gigantic sign that’s six feet from my face. Everything is blurry. If I didn’t have my contacts I would probably feed my children cat food, and my cats mac n’ cheese. My contacts are crucial.
But there’s another corrective lens I’ve learned to put on in the morning- my “gratitude glasses.” A filter of thankfulness over my eyes, a refreshing of my mind. A conscious decision to see the world with a grateful heart. I wear contacts so I can see what I’m doing. I wear gratitude glasses so I can see what God is doing.
When I started seeing the day through this lens, I began to see God’s beauty and blessings everywhere. Now I see my supportive and hardworking husband in his office, my loving and big-hearted kids growing and learning through play, and I even see my two sweet pets (who without my gratitude glasses become annoying, hairy, furniture-wrecking, useless and self-centered needy brats)! I see a full fridge of food, clean water to drink, and a dishwasher that saves me so much time! But without choosing a gratitude lens to look through each morning, I don’t see those things so clearly.
The time spent training my mind to experience gratitude daily has been well worth the effort. I went through a really tough time a couple months ago, when my husband and I had a miscarriage. It was a super painful, dark, and sad time. I must have cried for a week on and off. To make matters worse, it happened on our anniversary. It truly was a horrible circumstance.
But even in it, there were a lot of things to be grateful for. Walking back to the exam room of the emergency room, I was following a nurse. Her hair was tied back, and I noticed on her neck was a tattoo of a cross. I was reminded that Christ goes before me, and leads me through the valleys, and I was so thankful for that reminder.
Then, the doctor who verified my fear had the most nurturing and supportive demeanor. I could tell he felt my pain. In that room, with that doctor I had never met, I somehow experienced a moment of peace. I was very thankful that he was the doctor there at the time.
Later on at home, while I fought back tears, my husband ordered a fancy steakhouse meal for delivery to celebrate our anniversary. I had no appetite, or any interest in celebrating, but I was overwhelmed with his thoughtful gesture that told me he loved me and wanted to celebrate our marriage even in the middle of such sadness.
In the days following, I was flooded with gratitude for my two children who are safe and healthy. I felt so blessed to be their mom. So thankful that they were alive and well.
I also experienced so much peace following my miscarraige because my friends from mom’s group cared for me. One brought me a sweet “sunshine gift” full of bright and cheery items, another sent me a letter in the mail with scripture, and others texted me encouragement. I felt deep appreciation for this community of Christ-following mamas. I still felt sadness, but experiencing gratefulness and peace too was a much needed relief.
I think God tells us to be thankful in all circumstances, not only because he is always worthy of our praise, but also because gratitude allows us to experience joy in all circumstances. We may still feel sadness, but when it’s accompanied with joy, it’s a much lighter load to carry.
Yes, 2020 has been a rough year. Thanksgiving itself could be seen as a negative event if we’re stuck at home, away from family. But there is still so much we can be thankful for. We just need to put on our gratitude glasses, and God’s beautiful blessings will come into perfect focus.
Sarah Gonzalez is a stay-at-home mom who loves Jesus and caring for her two young children. She loves date nights and walks with her husband, and using creativity and humor through artistic outlets like writing and photography. You can learn more about her photography business at Sarah Gonzalez Photography.