Lately, I’m trying to get into the “gratitude groove.” What’s that, you ask? To me, it’s a way of life in which I’m continually praising God. It’s the practice of remembering, every single day, to praise God for new blessings, and for those blessings that I experience every single day. There is one notable way that I put this into practice.
Every night before falling asleep, I make an effort to praise God for at least 10 things.
This practice is calming and puts life into perspective. No matter how stressful a day was, there are always things that we can praise God for. We can even be grateful for challenges, as these strengthen us and allow us to rely more on God. Even on the difficult days, blessings abound. There a few praises on my list that stay the same from day to day. (For example, my house, my car, my family, etc…) There are certain blessings that God has truly outdone Himself in. I don’t want to forget to praise God for these, even when they are a familiar part of my life. There are so many people that are desiring these very blessings.
I simply thank God for my blessings, but another way to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal.
Gratitude actually has scientific research behind it, and it has been found to be positive for our mental health! Additionally, it can benefit your physical health. It can even help you sleep better. (And I believe that the practice of praising before bed has improved the quality of my sleep.) Practicing gratitude has even helped me have a closer relationship with God. In short, it’s a practice that I’ve only seen positive benefits from. I encourage you to try gratitude and watch how your life changes.
What benefits have you found from practicing gratitude?
Would you like to join me in the gratitude groove?
Lately I’ve been filled with gratitude. I’ve been pondering how I got to where I am today. I think about the people who contributed to raising me during childhood. They sacrificed so much for me, and still do. Many of them are still supporting me, praying for me, and cheering me on. Without them, I would not be the woman I am today.
I think about my ancestors, who hailed from a variety of countries. I don’t know as
much about them as I would like. I do know that without them, I would not exist. Many great qualities have been passed down. I think about the generous spirit that I received and learned from both sides. I think about the love of children and environments that embrace baby talking, play, and letting children be children. I was so blessed to grow up in these environments. Some people grow up in families that don’t know how to deal with children or see them as a burden. Every ancestry comes with various challenges. That includes mine, many times over. Yet I know the power of Jesus to break any curse. I know that I am not a lone individual, but I arrived on a foundation built by many others.
I think about the saints who have gone before. Beginning with the Apostles, they had numerous weaknesses. Christ didn’t forsake them despite their evident weaknesses. Think about Peter, who Jesus put in a leadership position, despite his denials. The Apostles clung to the faith to the end, some even paying the price with
their lives. Then throughout the past 2000 or so years, there have been countless others who lived lives worthy of their calling. There was Monica, who prayed her wayward son (Augustine) and her angry, faithless husband to unshakeable faith, even when it seemed her tears and prayers would have no pay off. These, and many, many more. They give me the example of keeping faith in any circumstance. They cheer us on and intercede still. The family of God doesn’t end with earthly death.
Always, we are “people in process.” I know that whatever my process looks like, and however far I feel from the person I was created to be, I am surrounded by people cheering me on to my finish line. Here in the earthly realm, and in realms beyond imagining. I can’t give up the fight. I’ve come too far. They came too far, and gave too much. Because of who they were, I am.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”-Hebrews 12:1
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”-John 15:13
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”-Ephesians 4:2-3
Faith can be a huge help when it comes to mental health struggles. In fact, it has been shown that faith can have a positive impact on mental health and on reducing anxious or depressive symptoms! Faith can also assist you in thinking positively, since faith gives us hope. We know that faith enriches our lives in so many ways and gives us hope for eternity as well.
Please be aware: there is a danger of “over-spiritualizing” mental health. There is a real biological component to many (if not most) struggles with mental health, including depression and anxiety. If someone tells you to simply pray it away, they are not looking at the whole picture. It’s true that faith in God can assist us in our struggles with mental health. In fact, forgetting the spiritual component of ourselves can be detrimental. But please realize there is more going on than a lack in prayer life and support that person as they seek whatever other help may be necessary for them.
Below are a few ways to find improved mental health with faith:
Soak yourself in the Word. Instead of letting negative thoughts take root, read God’s word. Do an internet search for the promises of God. There are many! Study His Word consistently. The Psalms are also a great place to take refuge in times of difficulty. There is a Psalm for all kinds of emotions and occasions.
Pray. Yes, it’s simple, but many people forget to do it! Instead of letting yourself fester in negative emotions, bring it God right away. Allow Him to carry your burden. Seek a close relationship with Him.
Recognizewhen your struggles are caused by sin, past or present. Confess your sin and learn to live in freedom from guilt and shame. Walk into the freedom and life that Jesus Christ offers. He doesn’t want us to live trapped in guilt about our past. He tells us to “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Praise in every circumstance. Learn to thank God for your blessings instead of focusing on what you don’t have. This practice will not only keep you rooted in thankfulness to the Lord, it will help you to stay mindful of the great things in your life and remind you that you are truly blessed! Praise is a mindset changer.
Get in the practice of doing the Examen. This allows you to stay in gratitude. Gratitude has positive effects on mental health (similar to praise, above). The Examen also keeps you rooted in listening to the voice of God in your life and seeking His will for you. (Also: check out this journal, which I used a number of years ago. Though it’s not specifically an Examen journal, it more or less follows the same pattern.)
Read books that focus on God and His goodness. There are so many books out there, from this generation and from when the Church was in its earliest beginnings. Reading these inspirational books can help you delve into a deeper walk with God. I’ll leave a short reading list at the end of this post. Please leave any other suggestions you have. (Of course, I’m going to leave my motherly caution to be careful of what you read, as there are many false teachers out there and books with half-truths!)
Surround yourself with positive, faith-filled people. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who truly live what they believe. This can do wonders when you yourself are struggling with faith. These people can give you encouragement in the tough times.
Seek (Christian) therapy. Struggleswitheatingdisorders, depression, anxiety, etc. areaffectedby and can be exacerbated byourpast& present relationships and life situations. A therapist in the world can assist you. However, looking at life from a godly perspective takes into account the entire picture and remembers your relationship with your Creator and Savior. As always, I recommend Christian therapy if you are looking for truth-based and sound therapy. In my experience with Christian therapy, the therapist will ask questions about your relationship with God, about how God fits in with what you are feeling and experiencing, and also will feed you truths from His Word.
Faith has been crucial to many people struggling with their mental health. Faith gives us hope in our earthly future (Jeremiah 29:11) and in an eternal future! However, please don’t be afraid to seek help in the resources and people that God has given, when needed! Remember, He told us that “where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).
(Short) Recommended Reading List
The Holy Bible
Josiah’s Fire by Tahni Cullen
To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal, MD
Left to Tell & Led by Faith by Imaculee Ilibagiza (note: Left to Tell takes place during the Rwandan genocide; not recommended for sensitive readers)
Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young (spot-on devotion for each day)
It’s November, the month that those of us living in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday reminds us to give thanks for our blessings. In my own life, I’ve been working to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” As my attitude has shifted, I have noticed a much higher level of contentment in my life! Life definitely isn’t “perfect”–but it is all a blessing!
I came across an email sent to me nearly 2 years ago. This email was packed to the brim with encouragement that I needed today! It was prophetic, if you will. I remembered the basics of the email and searched for it, seeking the treasures found within. Even now, 2 years later, the inspiration echoed.
I sent a “thank you” email to the person who had sent the email! I pray that they will be encouraged and built up by my act of thanking them! I wonder how many other people they have encouraged and will encourage?
You never know how much it will encourage someone to hear how they have encouraged you! Encouragers can get tired. Sometimes those who give encouragement rarely receive encouragement themselves. It’s important to make others aware of how they have impacted our lives! Gratitude is so important for our own state of mind, in addition to refreshing the people who have touched our lives!
If someone gave you a word to change the course of your life 10, 20, even 30 years ago…Reach out! Thank them and tell them how they changed your life or your mindset.
If a friend helped you last week with something seemingly small…Say “thank you!” Tell them why you appreciate them.
If you’ve never thanked your parents for the sacrifices they made raising you…Say “thank you” and let them know how they shaped you to be who you are today.
You could say thank you with words, some homemade baked goods, a card, an email, flowers, taking them out to coffee, a spiritual bouquet …The possibilities are endless!
Your “thank you” could mean more than you ever know!
The gifts of singleness?You might be tempted to shut out of this post now. Bear with me. I’m on the single journey too. I know there are very difficult days. There are aspects of singleness that are consistently difficult. However, today we will focus on the gifts. Despite the pain, there are always positive aspects to be found. Finding gratitude helps to keep a positive attitude and live in the blessings.
So, what are some of the gifts of the single life?
The single life can more easily be devoted to service/ministry. As a single person, it is
easier to live a life of service or devoted to ministry. I can think of many occasions where I was able to go help a friend due to my single state. A mother with little ones can’t drop everything to help a friend. A spouse must think about how their service work or ministry will impact their marriage and family life. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34: “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.” Truly, living single-heartedly for the Kingdom is much easier as a single person! The time and space to build an unshakable relationship with God is a huge blessing of the single life.
The single life provides a degree of freedom that married people don’t have. This can mean travel, more time to invest in writing or other projects, and of course, ministry or easier ability to do mission work. It can also mean greater availability to invest in relationships with members of your faith family, blood family, friends, and even people you may serve as a mentor to. I enjoy the flexibility of singleness. I don’t need to check in with someone else (or multiple people!) about my calendar but can plan as I wish! It is simple. I also find a bit of financial freedom despite the single life meaning only one income. At least in America, many people have debt. Getting married can mean double the student loans, car payment, and credit card debt to manage. (Note: I don’t believe debt is normally a good thing. Unfortunately, it is the reality for many Americans.)
A single life is one with a single person’s problems. One could also argue that marriage is easier because it gives you another person to sustain you in trouble. However, two families bring two different dynamics and two different sets of troubles-plus the troubles within your own home and marriage. Additionally, the stressors of being a parent can be overwhelming for anyone. Add special needs to the plate, helping a child through bullying, or trusting the Lord to provide for the family when the economy is bad–parenting is painful! Learning to love your spouse through the times when they are not at their best can also be difficult–such as if a spouse is diagnosed with a mental illness or facing their troubles from the past. The troubles of a single person pale in comparison to adding a spouse, their family troubles, and children’s struggles as well! (Though I know singles look forward to pouring out love in these circumstances–we have a bit of a break now!)
A longer single life provides more time to attain wisdom, life experience, and clarity about your calling(s) and the direction of your life. Had some of us married younger, we may have missed out on certain aspects of ourselves. These aspects may very well be important to a marriage and perhaps even a shared ministry! For example, during the past decade the Lord has confirmed to me that Africa will continue to play a part in my life. Thus, if I had married someone lacking a love for Africa, I would have missed out on a huge joy and part of my life. I know now that the Lord has someone for me who will be willing to live in countries other than the USA. In His infinite wisdom, the Lord has given me more time to discover these aspects of my calling. I believe it is the same for you, if you have been waiting longer than expected!
Don’t lose heart. There are gifts in the season of singleness, just as there are deep struggles.
Live joyfully in the gifts of today, and you will be able to better receive the gifts of tomorrow.
“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”~1 Corinthians 7:7
Have you discovered any other gifts in singleness that were not mentioned here?
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever.”~Psalm 136:1
Have you ever felt displeased with your current circumstances? Have you ever wished that things could just turn around? They will, my friend. God’s promise is true! Yet, we must learn to be content where we are.
Praise Him, and your discontent will melt away! You’ll be amazed as you remember the blessings and His faithfulness in the past. He has done it before, and He will surely do it again!
Lately there have been times I’ve been discontent. But when I remember to praise, the realization of how blessed I have been washes over me! I have seen how much my Heavenly Father loves me as I call to mind the wonderful things in my life. I get stuck in the discontent and focusing on negative aspects. Praise leads me back to joy, gratitude, and the arms of my Heavenly Father!
In the USA, we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. Focus on your blessings! Once you get started, it’s often hard to stop. Praise Him and grow closer to the One who loves your soul, and has given you so many good gifts!
Praise will lead to gratitude!
Together journeying toward the Creator and becoming the creations we were meant to be.