Did you know that gratitude has been shown to be one of the most significant factors contributing to healing our hearts subsequent to the loss of a spouse?

By definition, gratitude is “…the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude is more than a nice feeling when things are going well. It’s easy to feel grateful when life is good! It’s not so easy to choose to be grateful when faced with a trauma or difficulty! But the fact is that gratitude is a choice. Gratitude requires intentional stillness and reflection that move us towards a place of peace.

There’s a great deal of scientific research that indicates that gratitude (or thankfulness) has the power to energize, to heal, and to bring hope. Research also clearly shows that gratitude helps us to cope with crisis, and that grateful people are more resilient to stress both in everyday life and in times of major crisis. Oh, and if you’re taking supplements to boost your immune system? Consider gratitude! It’s true!! Reframing your situation and seeing it through a lens of gratefulness actually changes your brain chemistry and contributes to a greater sense of well-being.

The first step in building a heart of gratitude is to recognize that there are actually things we can be grateful for! Following the death of a spouse, this first step is often the most difficult. During those early months, it is nearly impossible to focus on what the blessings might be in the midst of the pain. Overcoming this hurdle takes intentional times of stillness and waiting for those good things to come to mind. I’m not at all saying that we should be grateful for our spouse’s death!! However, if we look for them, there are things co-existing with our grief that bring to mind God’s love and care.

I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Wait! Did he say EVERYTHING? And did he actually say this is the will of God for me? Wow! Then it follows that if I refuse to give thanks in anything – including my being a widow – I’m rebelling against the will of God! Ouch!

And furthermore, Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERY situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” This is not a nice idea or a suggestion that would be good to follow….this is a COMMAND! And it does put “every situation”, “thanksgiving”, and “present your requests” all in the same sentence. I’m not even sure I always know how to do that!

What I do know, and what brain science is now telling us is that God understood the importance of giving thanks long before we humans did! Gratitude literally changes our brain chemistry and leads to those new sparks of joy in our lives.

There’s an amazing little book called “One Thousand Gifts” written by Ann Voskamp that explores this idea of giving thanks for all the little things in life. (I highly recommend you check it out on Amazon!) She took up a challenge to make a list of 1,000 things for which she was grateful. I might add that she did this during a very dark period of her life. (By the way, she reissues this challenge to anyone who wants to join her in doing this!) One of the ideas she unpacks in this book is the meaning of the Eucharist. (For those of you not raised in a church situation where this term is used, it is another name for Communion.) She begins with the root word “chara”, meaning “joy”. This is surrounded by “charis”, meaning “grace”, which is in the middle of the word “eucharisteo” meaning “thanksgiving.” In the original writing of the Last Supper, the word “eucharisteo” is used, and literally means “he gave thanks”.

What a profound idea! Jesus gave thanks, knowing that the following day He would die and open a door for the greatest miracle ever – salvation and a way to God. Scripture says later that for the JOY set before Him, He endured the cross. What does this tell us, then? Whenever thanksgiving is possible, then grace and joy are always possible. Do you begin to see the significance of walking in gratitude? When you can express gratefulness for the many everyday things in your life, the door is opened for miracles….miracles of provision, healing, and joy.

And God, in His wisdom, has commanded us to give thanks in every situation! We may explore this a little further in future blogs, but for now would you consider one simple thing…well, maybe two? Would you consider starting a gratitude journal? It will change your life! You will begin to see things through a different lens. The pain in your heart will begin to refocus in such a way that you will see all the blessings co-existing with your grief, and God will once again be able to bring joy to your heart.

Please feel free to share this blog and encourage your friends to subscribe. As always, your comments and/or emails are welcome.


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