Cultivating a Thankful Heart

Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

The Power of Thanksgiving


It was one of those phone calls that makes one’s stomach literally drop, and then came the word no one wants to hear—cancer. 


It felt like a cruel twist. While millions prepared for a holiday celebrating gratitude, my mother-in-law would embark on an intense battle for life. 


It would have been easy, and perhaps even expected, and certainly justified, for her to slip into despair. To camp out on the question that has plagued so many in similar circumstances: Why me? 


Though I imagine that question arose throughout her treatment, she chose not to stay there. 


She chose to embrace every moment and to find joy wherever she could.


When she felt tired, I heard, “I’m blessed to have such a supportive family.”


When in pain, I heard, “I’m blessed to have such caring doctors.”


Though it's okay to grieve difficult circumstances and to share our feelings honestly with God and others, practicing intentional gratitude can bring such strength and encouragement. It can make the hard feel less hard. When we fix our thoughts on the lovely, praiseworthy, and admirable, we experience a peace and fortifying joy that surpasses our circumstances. 


I often expect gratitude to come easily. When the sun is shining and my loved ones are well, when I feel healthy and strong or am surrounded by blessings, praise comes unbidden. 


But what about when life hits us hard? Then we have a beautiful opportunity to offer God a sacrifice of praise.


Scripture tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ” (1 Thess. 5:18).


Perhaps, in part, because hope grows when we shift our focus off of our struggles and onto the mercies God provides each day. If you’re having a difficult time seeing those mercies, I encourage you to consider my mother-in-law’s story and ponder how you might follow her example. Doing so likely won’t alleviate the struggle, but I guarantee it will increase your strength to fight it.