Have you ever noticed how much better your life is when you’re grateful for all the good things in it? Oh, I know, I know … life is full of aggravations — some huge, but most of them quite small in the scheme of things. I’ve had my share and, frankly, I’ve had a lot more than my share a few times. But I’ve realized that being aggravated, upset, worried, angry, or just out of peace does no real good for me or anyone else and takes a negative toll on me personally.
In contrast, when I am actively grateful for the positive gifts in my life, I find I feel better physically, I think much more quickly and clearly, and I make a positive difference in other people’s lives. Of course I’m referring to being grateful for the big things like a loving family, trustworthy friends, a job, a place to live, food to eat, etc. But sometimes I’m actually sensible enough to be grateful for the small, ordinary things like being able to see the night sky and wonder at it — for being treated kindly by a clerk in a store — for having pleasant-scented dishwashing liquid to enjoy as I do the day’s dishes (by hand).
Whether it’s a small patch of flowers in the yard, a delicious cup of coffee, a local police officer who offers to help with a contrary auto license plate, a computer tech on the other end of the phone who’s willing to go the extra mile to fix my problem, or a family of the cutest little groundhogs out enjoying the day even though they are living where they shouldn’t be (in my neighbor’s yard) — when I realize that they have actually added beauty, energy, interest, and/or some degree of help to my life — and when I take the time and energy of thought to just appreciate that fact — my whole quality of life is just better.
One day a few years ago I was quietly meditating on spiritual things, and the Lord suddenly dropped a little chorus into my heart. I started singing it over and over (to the tune of a little fun song I used to sing as a child), and the truth of it registered deeply inside of me. Now, you won’t be able to hear the tune (because I’m not inclined to sing it into my computer and post a sound bite at this point), but I will share the words with you:
“I will have a grateful heart;
A grateful heart is a cheerful heart;
A cheerful heart is medicine,
So I can be well and strong.”
Now, I believe the Word of God is exactly that: The Word of God. So I believe that, not only is it true and trustworthy, but it also works. If we will believe it and live it, it will manifest God’s blessings in our lives. And that Word tells us in Proverbs 17:22 that a cheerful heart does good like a medicine in our bodies. Long years after that Word was written, human physicians have proven that cheerfulness and inner joy have a very positive effect on our physical health and, in fact can actually get people well. So the words of that little chorus the Lord gave me are a very good prescription for well-being.
I’m not perfect at maintaining a grateful heart — yet — but my mind is made up: I know for myself that being actively grateful for all the positive, pleasant things in my everyday life, no matter how small they are, makes my entire life a much better experience. And one of the things I’m grateful for today is that I’ve learned that lesson.
After writing this piece, I realized it was a good answer to Colline’s question about what we’re grateful for this week, so I’ll link to her post in case you’d like to respond to it as well.