We sang that old hymn of praise in church on Sunday. And that worship service reminded me that not just this week – Thanksgiving week – but each and every week of the year, I need to be counting my blessings with thanksgiving.
Every Sunday, our pastor asks us to share joys and concerns prior to corporate prayer time at our church. Sometimes, as life would have it, it seems we are over-burdened with concerns. Illnesses, accidents, difficulties are all part of real life. No one is immune to them, not even those of us who believe in Jesus Christ.
Often, when someone becomes a new believer in Christ, one thinks the world, at least our world, will fly right. We mistakenly think we should be exempt from trying times, but that is not what Jesus taught us. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
He didn’t promise us a rose garden. He didn’t promise rose-colored glasses would make our world any less troublesome either. He flat out told us we’d have trouble in life.
But even amid the tribulation, the sorrow, the pain, He did promise that He would never desert us. He promised to be our hope. He came to change the world, to offer man something no other god could do, give us the free gift of salvation.
The joys and concerns at church on Sunday reminded me of this. Because even amid the concerns of those with serious illnesses or dire situations in life, reasons for joy were reflected – reasons for which to be thankful. In my own family, we have those blessings to count and be grateful for this week.
My brother-in-law experienced a mild heart attack last week. He and my sister were on their way to Arizona for the winter, when they stopped by my niece’s family home for a few days. There, he felt chest pain.
After a trip to the ER, he was flown back to his home state, to a city with a very good heart hospital, where doctors determined he had a blockage and corrected it with insertion of a stent. After a couple days of being home resting and recuperating, he returned to the hospital for another health situation.
So even though we had much cause for concern, we have reasons to count blessings:
- Blessing #1: My sister and brother-in-law were with family when this happened instead of on the road somewhere where help may not have been available.
- Blessing #2: Doctors in this small town hospital realized he needed to be seen at a heart hospital hours away and he was dispatched there in good time.
- Blessing #3: There appears to be no other damage to his heart.
- Blessing#4: His latest health issue appears to be resolved and hopefully, he will be home again shortly.
- Blessing #5: My sister still has her husband, my nieces have their father, my great-nephews/nieces have their grandfather, my children have their uncle, and hubby and I have my brother-in-law who has always been like a big brother to me.
Some years ago I learned a valuable lesson about counting blessings and gratitude from a friend. I experienced a temporary health condition that led to a bit of disappointment for me. My believing friend called to ask how I was doing and in the midst of our conversation (where I, no doubt, was feeling sorry for myself), she prayed for me.
As she prayed, she used a scripture in her prayer: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The verses she recited resonated in my heart as she prayed. The words conveyed a new understanding of thankfulness for me, which I have been mindful of to this day and this scripture became my life verse.
That day my friend actually thanked God for my illness, expressing gratitude in all circumstances, not just for the good, beneficial, wonderful times. Why obey what scripture teaches us and be thankful even during difficult periods? Because there are blessings to count and reasons to express gratitude to God.
As I prepare for our day of thanks, I will, much as I did that day many years ago, count my many blessings, which is a lot more rewarding than counting sheep. Won’t you join me in counting your blessings too?
“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.” ~ Alan Cohen