President, High Prairie Branch,
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Thanksgiving has just passed. In our family we have a tradition. No one eats the turkey until everyone shares something they are grateful for.
Some years are easy. Gratitude rolls off the tongue easily. Other years are difficult. The sorrows seem to outweigh the good. It takes a little longer to come up with a response. No one is free from trial and sorrow in this life.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf gives this advice when we find ourselves holding a personal pity party:
“Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.
“We can be grateful!
“It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.”
As an elementary school child, we learned to have a “gratitude attitude”. Multiple research studies have shown the value of keeping a daily gratitude journal.
A favorite hymn suggests:
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
“Count your blessings” is a familiar phrase. But what does it truly mean to be grateful? Uchtdorf suggests:
“Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count … Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances – whatever they may be.”
Russell M. Nelson taught, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His Gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening – or not happening – in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him.”
Therefore, when we focus on turning our lives toward Christ we find joy, no matter what the circumstance. When our focus is on the Saviour we can grow in the hope that, although we do not understand why we have the trials and sorrows we do, one day we will come to know that these circumstances have given us experience and helped us to become more like the Saviour himself.