Authored by Dia
On my good days I’ll run for an hour either early in the morning or around sunset. My concentration is often divided: paying attention to the road so I don’t injure myself, and listening to an audio book or music, praying for a friend, or organizing my thoughts and planning.
Despite my desires to multitask, I’ve realized that I need to take at least a little time for gratitude when outdoors. This is a time when I turn off my iPod, clear my mind, and soak in the beauty around me—the blue sky, the sounds of birds, a budding flower—and consider the wonder of all the involuntary actions my body performs that make it possible for me to run, so many amazing things that I otherwise take for granted. Those few moments of gratitude not only enhance my run, but powerfully affect the rest of my day.
When sitting down to write this podcast, I remembered a song I learned as a child called “Thank You For My Eyes.” The song is a praise to God for each of our senses—our eyes that help us see beauty, our mouth that helps us enjoy the taste of delicious food, our nose that helps us smell, our ears that help us hear. We so often take our senses for granted, but they can each be triggers for gratitude.
How often do you take the time to notice the wonders of the world around you—a powerful thunderstorm, a double rainbow, birds in flight, a breathtaking tree, the brilliance of a full moon? If you can just slow down and open up your senses, you’ll most likely discover plenty of things to be grateful for.
Maybe you’ll want to pause this podcast now to get into a grateful state. Think about the sounds or songs that touch your soul and make you feel good. Or the foods and flavors that make your mouth water. Or the experiences that you want to remember forever. As you reflect on these things, you’ll begin to feel joy and gratitude, and you can praise God for those things. As you express your gratitude, whether in your mind or out loud, it will affect your thinking, it will get your mind on a positive track, and that can set the mood for your whole day.
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor, once said, “Optimism is a mental state which can allow you to do tangible things to improve your physical state.”1 In other words, being positive has creative power.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I recollect feeling gratitude or thankfulness for things that gave me immediate gratification. If I got something I wanted that made me happy, I was glad. If not, I wasn’t. It was pretty simple; I was grateful for good things. The scripture “Be thankful in all circumstances”2 is something I am still learning to apply in my life. Expressing gratitude when things happen that I don’t want, when I’m disappointed or down, does not come naturally at all.
However, in life we are going to experience hardships and difficulties and downright bad days, regardless of who we are or what we believe or anything. That’s the nature of life. But the beauty of having belief and faith in God is that while God doesn’t always rescue us from the problems, He does always give us the strength to face them, tackle them, and overcome them. The apostle Paul was a terrific example of having gratitude and giving praise to God in the face of extreme hardship and adversity.
I recently read through the book of Acts to jog my memory of the difficulties Paul went through, and came up with quite a list! Here are some of the highlights:
*Paul and Barnabas were persecuted and expelled from Antioch3
*Paul was stoned in Lystra4
*Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi5
*There was an insurrection against Paul in Corinth6
*Paul was attacked by a mob in the Temple of Jerusalem and was taken to prison7
*There was a conspiracy against Paul’s life8
*Paul spent two years in prison at Caesarea9
*Paul was shipwrecked and bitten by a snake on Malta10
*Paul spent another two years as a prisoner in Rome11
Yet in spite all of that nastiness, Paul was still able to say: “I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in,”12 and “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”13
You see, it’s relatively easy to be grateful when life is going well and smoothly, but it’s during the times when it feels like all hell is breaking loose or we’re facing problem after problem that being grateful is the last thing we want to do, and probably the hardest thing to do as well. But if we can learn to praise God even when things are difficult, we will find that He in turn gives us strength to face and even embrace those difficulties.
You may have heard about the Miracle Berry or Miracle Fruit, which is an amazing little red berry found in Africa that causes any food to taste sweet. One woman who tried the Miracle Berry wrote, “Sinking my teeth into the lemon, I braced myself to wince at the sour, citric tang that would inevitably assault my taste buds. But, almost unbelievably, there was not a hint of bitterness. The acidic fruit tasted as sweet as lemon meringue pie. The sensation was surreal, as if I were sampling the result of some worrying genetic modification. Yet it was 100 percent natural, the incredible effect of the ‘miracle berry’.”14
You eat just one tiny berry and anything you eat within the next hour or so tastes sweet—people have even tried eating hot sauce after eating the berry, and to them the hot sauce tasted like doughnut glaze. In a way, gratitude is like the Miracle Berry. When we fill our hearts and minds with gratitude, it changes the way we experience things. Sour experiences can even seem sweet to us; in fact, nothing that God sends us would seem unpleasant if we’re able to be grateful.
The verse that says God inhabits the praise of His people15 is a reminder to me that gratitude and thankfulness have power that can turn negative situations around. When I am grateful, I am recognizing that God dwells in me, and I am able to tap in to His strength and power to overcome anything.
Something closely related to gratitude is praise. I know God loves our praise, but I believe He also wants us to praise Him because of the benefits we receive from it.
A word for praise that’s often used in Scripture is “magnify.” When you aim a magnifying glass at an object, what does it do? It makes the object appear larger. It doesn’t actually change the size of the object itself, but it changes your perception of the object—it appears bigger and more prominent to you. Well, that’s what happens when we praise God. Our perception of Him changes. And when our vision is more focused on God and His power and love for us, it helps put all the little daily worries, concerns, troubles, and whatnot in perspective.16
As author Melody Beattie once wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Why not try to make today a “state of gratitude” day, a day where you stay on the lookout for things you can be grateful for and where you respond to difficult or disappointing situations with gratefulness. See what it does for you, how it affects your emotions, and how your day goes because of it. I bet you’ll come up with good results and want to repeat it!
1 The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, September 18, 2007.
2 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT.
3 Acts 13:14-50.
4 Acts 14:19-20.
5 Acts 16:35-39.
6 Acts 18:12.
7 Acts 21:26-22:23.
8 Acts 23:12.
9 Acts 23:23; 24:26-27.
10 Acts 27 and 28.
11 Acts 28:30-31.
12 Philippians 4:11 ISV.
13 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT.
14 “The ‘miracle berry’ that turns taste on its head: I tried it and it works,” by Liz Todd, June 2008, Daily Mail
15 Psalm 22:3 KJV.
16 Adapted from The Tremendous Power of Prayer by Charlie “Tremendous” Jones and Bob Kelly, Howard Books (2000).
Read by Florence McNair. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International