The Power of Thankfulness

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on


I rarely ask other people for favors. I have a tendency to just gut out difficult situations on my own. I suppose I’ve always been that way. Perhaps I picked up that trait from my mom who was an exceedingly independent woman. Amazingly I save any requests that I may have for God. In fact, I suppose if my prayers were recorded they would sound a bit too much like a wish list. Mostly my supplications are for people that I know who are sick or suffering in some way. I never actually mention things that I need. Still, I recently realized my heavy reliance on favors from the Lord when a friend posted a meditation suggesting that we all spend one day simply thanking God for the blessings that He showers on us. I decided to accept the challenge and it was truly life changing.

I happened to be in Colorado taking a mini-vacation when I set out to notice my bounty rather than to focus on my wants, so it was rather easy to find wondrous moments of appreciation. I began with a thank you just for waking up on that day. Then I expressed my gratitude for being in the company of my loving husband, my best friend. Suddenly I the idea really caught hold and I was feeling joyful over having nice warm clothes to wear and fresh food to eat for breakfast. I was on a roll before I ever left our hotel room for which I also felt great cheer because I knew that there were homeless folk on the streets of downtown Denver who might have been thrilled to stay in such luxury.

And so it went all day long. I thanked God for the gloriously magnificent mountains that provided a majestic view. I was happy for the sun and the blue sky. I began to notice all sorts of tiny things that I might otherwise have overlooked or taken for granted, like the smiles that people exchanged with me. I began to see the glory of the world around me with new eyes. It was as though I was a newborn child experiencing life for the first time. I can’t even begin to describe how calm it made me feel. My normal tendencies toward anxiety melted away and I felt a happiness that was pure and without any conditions. Not even little irritations that might normally have made me a bit irate were able to touch me.

I have to admit that I even found myself feeling particularly thankful for the friend, Paula, who posts daily prayers and meditations that I scan but too often don’t take fully to heart. I was so glad that her passage for that day had somehow caught my attention just enough that I had decided to take the challenge. It provided me with the kind of awakening that I genuinely needed in that moment. It also taught me to take the time each day to be as fully aware of the bounty of my life as I am of the problems that I must face. I have literally changed my approach to God and to each day and found that it feels so good.

I suppose that it is only human to dwell on worries and concerns. There are even times when the world crowds in on us with such force that it is difficult to ignore the tragedies and horrors that come our way. In those moments we need help from God and any person who is willing to step forward, and we should not hesitate to reach out for any assistance that we might find. Nonetheless, we still would do well to take note of our blessings even in the most terrible of times. Focusing only on what we need rather than taking stock of what we already have can leave us feeling depressed and incapable. When we take the time to notice the gifts that we have, we realize that many of the tools that we need to survive are already in our hands.

My mother was always filled with joy and gratitude. She cherished the most utterly simple moments and didn’t seem to notice how much she lacked in material wealth. If I took her to visit her sister she was as happy as if I had given her on a grand vacation. She thought that a glass of milk and a few vanilla wafers was an extravagance. She constantly insisted that she was one of the most blessed individuals in the world even though she was a widow with bipolar disorder and an income so low that it barely covered her expenses. She read her Bible every single day and never failed to point out how generous God had been to her.

I sometimes felt irritated that she was so childlike in her appreciation for life. It seemed almost nonsensical that anyone with the challenges that she had should be so happy. I suppose that I did not truly understand the power of being thankful for the most basic blessings that we enjoy. I thought of her on the day that I was purposely looking for good things and realized that such optimism is incredibly up lifting. I knew then that it had been the secret to my mom’s ability to survive. It was the key to her selflessness and contentment.

I’ve been more and more careful to spend my days celebrating the glory of my life. It has completely changed my outlook for the better. When something bad happens I find myself looking for the silver lining. When I feel overwhelmed I take a deep breath and feel thankful that I am alive enough to still be in the race. Instead of feeling sorry for myself because so many that I have loved have died, I speak of how lucky I have been to have known them. My world is now filled with more rainbows than dark clouds. I have more energy for dealing with the inevitable worries and tragedies that come my way.

I still know that I can petition God for favors if need be. I understand that my requests may not always be fulfilled in the ways that I had hoped. I have learned over a lifetime that I don’t always get what I want, but sometimes I get what I need. I thank God just for being around to hear my complaints and my pleas. Then I move forward with thankfulness. 


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