Blessed Solanus Casy often said ‘thank God ahead of time‘, he knew God would always do what was best for him. To have gratitude means to have a thankful disposition of the heart and mind. So how can we practice gratitude? Firstly we can be grateful for the blessings in our lives, be it our family, friends, work, school, the ability to do things, etc. Know that everything you have in your life comes from God and he places those blessings upon you for a reason. We live in a culture that incessantly prompts us to want more and more of what others have – and INSTANTLY, and we oftentimes forget the very blessings we already have in our lives.
To practice gratitude does not merely mean being thankful all the time for the good things in life, it also means being thankful for the sufferings and sorrows of life. Yes, this is definitely a tricky one and can be very difficult for us. Often times we may not comprehend why God allows us to bear such crosses, however, God never permits anything you can’t handle. The crosses in our lives, whether they are big or small ones are an opportunity to grow more in grace and grow closer to God and become more humble. Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, describes the profound kind of spiritual crisis on the road towards a union with God in his famous poem from the 16th century titled “The Dark Night of the Soul.” God permits these seasons of suffering which can come in the form of an intense trial of spiritual desertness, which St Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced, the outrage of the injustices of life, despair in the face of tragedy, or desperation with ones daily life routine.
Christ Himself experienced the drama of the silence of the Father during the darkest of nights, to the point of begging His Father to take that chalice away from Him during His prayer in the Garden of Olives in preparation for the Passion, why should we assume that God would spare us from experiencing radical doubt? No vocation exempts a Christian from spiritual trials. St Augustine, an iconic saint, experienced depression in his lifetime. He lifted himself up from those abysses by means of prayer, sacrifice, and work. Suffering is a part of life, how we view suffering can greatly affect how we view gratitude.
Simple steps to help you grow in gratitude
1.Prayer – If you struggle with gratitude take this to prayer and ask God for more grace to help you accept each moment in life. The serenity prayer is powerful and such a simple one to pray.
God grant me the serenity
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
2. Surround yourself with people who are grateful – this may sound like an obvious one, but it is a really important one. Gratitude flows from humility. “If souls are humble, they will be moved to give thanks,” St. Teresa of Ávila said. We must resist the temptation to be picture perfect as that is not real or sustainable.
3. Forgiveness – we all make mistakes, say things we shouldn’t have said, etc or perhaps others have said things to you that were hurtful. When we refuse to forgive it leads us to grow in hard-heartedness. Forgiveness brings freedom into your heart and allows you to grow more in love with God and with others. We are all imperfect human beings striving to do the next right thing.
4. Do not worry or be anxious – St. Paul says:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
How much time are you spending on your phones, computers, TVs, or anything with a screen? There is a direct link between screen time and anxiety. If you are anxious or worried, detach yourself from technology, go for a walk for some fresh air, ring a friend for a chat, go to adoration and spend time with the Lord or pray the rosary. The rosary is such a beautiful and powerful prayer and can help you relax.
Matthew 6: 33-34; ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’.