I remember the day clearly. I had been chronically ill for five years and was continuing to decline in health, both physically and emotionally.
As I was going to ascend the basement stairs, they suddenly seemed impossible for me to climb. I was just too weak. I stood there staring hopelessly at the top and considered crawling up the stairs. It struck me that for some reason this was a pivotal moment for me, although I didn’t know why.
After that, with every step, I thanked the Lord for enabling me to do so. By the time I reached the top, I was truly grateful and at peace with what normally would have been a tense and upsetting situation. Thankfulness had changed my attitude and also the outcome. I was still tired physically, but not exhausted emotionally from frustration and defeat.
I had found gratitude in a place of struggle and suffering and it forever changed me.
After that day, I began thanking the Lord regularly for even the smallest blessings in my life. Without realizing it, I was developing a lifestyle of thankfulness. My focus was no longer on what I had lost or didn’t have, but was on what was still positive in my life.
In my experience, being grateful is an important key to staying happy, despite what difficulties may come our way.
Conversely, complaining has the opposite effect.
In Psalm 77, verse 3, the psalmist wrote: “I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.”
Dr. Dale Robbins has stated: “I used to think people complained because they had a lot of problems. But I have come to realize that they have problems because they complain. Complaining doesn’t change anything or make situations better. It amplifies frustration, spreads discontent and discord ... ”
Plain and simple, we need to resist complaining (Philippians 2, verse 14) and choose to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5, verse 18). This is a life-changing decision and one that will powerfully and positively impact our lives.
So, although Thanksgiving Day happens just once a year, we should endeavour to express our gratitude to God and people every day.
Patricia Bryan is pastor of His Path Christian Centre and the Academy of Prayer.