Last week, a reader asked how we can be grateful for the blessings (and the things that don’t appear to be blessings) in our lives.  Four intrepid Meridian readers wrote in to share their experiences on the subject:

Ten years ago, I spent three and a half months in the hospital, of which most were spent in the intensive care unit.  During that time, when many of my friends thought that I wouldn’t make it out alive, I came to know and love my Savior much more than I ever had.  I felt calm and peaceful and knew that everything would be all right.
Since then, I have continued to have health problems.  Then when the recession hit, I found that my business pretty much dried up.  By putting my trust in the Lord and keeping an “attitude of gratitude” (as our beloved prophet admonished), I have been able to remain calm and peaceful.  I know that my Savior loves me and will take care of me.
Grateful in Salt Lake

Thanks for your letter, Grateful.  It’s hard to focus on the positive when you are beset with uncertainty, but that’s one of the secrets of a happy life.  

Years ago I heard a tape of a talk by Marion D. Hanks titled “Make It a Good Day!”  
Although he didn’t specifically address gratitude, he did teach that the kind of day we have depends on us.  We can decide to be sad or happy.  It is a decision we can make.  
So we can decide to make it a good day.
It’s not always easy, but it does work and it’s worth it.  And when one looks at this life compared to eternity, our trials today are “but a small moment.”  (D&C 121:7)
Also remember that we often look back on our trials as periods of tremendous growth spiritually or in other ways, or by gaining insights about us or life in general.  
So look at the positive side and enjoy it.  

Make it a good day!
Been There, Done That, and Prefer the Positive

Thanks for the counsel, Been There.   I tracked down the date that talk was given, but I couldn’t find it in its entirety on the BYU speeches website.  I did find a quote from it to share with our readers, though.  Here it is:

“If you would like to make it a happy day — a good day — get your mind off yourself. Look around you. At the moment of depression, if you will follow a simple program, you will get out of it. Get on your knees and get the help of God; then get up and go find somebody who needs something that you can help them find.

Then it will be a good day!”

Marion D. Hanks
September 27 1966

BYU Speeches of the Year — “Make It a Good Day”

It’s easy to be grateful when your life is full of blessings, but when the hard times come it’s more difficult. One idea that helps me to stay on top of things with a grateful attitude is to remember — “act, don’t react.”  In fact, for several years that has been my only New Year’s resolution.

When I stop and think instead of reacting immediately to something negative in my life, it puts me in control rather than the “natural woman” who is full of criticisms, anger, hurt, and rebukes. I can ask myself, “What am I to learn from this experience?” Then, with time, meditation and prayer, answers will come.

Forgiving and letting go of hurts, trying to understand, and loving others who are also hurting, can give you more peace and gratitude in your life. I find that writing in a journal helps me sort out my thoughts and return to my life with a better more grateful attitude for the good, bad and ugly of my life and these modern times. God is in charge and all things shall be for our experience (D&C 122:7:  “…all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.”)

Lin Floyd

That’s a great scripture, Lin.  I also like 2 Nephi 2:2:  “He shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

Our last reader has a two-part plan for having the gift of gratitude.  Here’s what she had to say:

1.    Utilize Prayer and Thanksgiving:

In Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, she and her sister Betsie were in a concentration camp, and conditions were horrible. How could they live in this place? Immediately they began to pray, and immediately they remembered their morning scripture: “In all circumstances, give thanks.”

They began to look for reasons to be grateful. They were still together. They still had their tiny Bible. They had opportunities to share the gospel because the fleas kept the guards away.

When life is tough, I stop to think about what is going right. Does my body still work? Is everybody healthy? Do we have someplace to live? These things all become reasons to give thanks.

2.    Give Thanks in Advance for Blessings not yet Received:

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale gave some good advice to a young woman whose husband was away at war. She was terrified that any day she would hear of his death. Dr. Peale advised her to give daily prayers of thanks in advance for her husband’s safe return. From time to time I have also been known to give thanks in advance for blessings not yet received. We did this when my husband’s employment situation became uncertain. We did this when our son was in the hospital with a resistant infection. Giving thanks in advance helped to relieve our anxiety and increase our faith. Even as the Nephites of old gave thanks for the Savior who had not yet come to earth, we can give thanks for blessings that the Lord has in store for us.

Lora Kinder
Riverside, California

Lora, I really appreciated what you had to say.  I recently read a great talk on gratitude by Sharon G. Samuelson entitled, “Gratitude — A Commandment of God”.   Part of the talk consisted of her retelling of Corrie ten Boom’s story about having gratitude for fleas.  The whole talk is worth a read.

I liked what you wrote about giving gratitude for things that are going right.  This reminded me of a situation I face often, even though I am surrounded by blessings.

The first fourteen years we lived in Virginia, we lived in a house that was not a pleasant place.  It was infested with bugs and mice that we couldn’t get rid of because they were feasting on features of our house that naturally attracted pests and vermin.  Worse, we had loud and obnoxious neighbors who lived almost on top of us, who were intent on driving down the property values in the neighborhood.  Clark and I did a lot of traveling in those days, and we dreaded coming home because of the unpleasant surroundings.

After years of prayer, we were led to the perfect home for us.  It is in a pastoral setting, and all the wildlife are outdoors.  Our one neighbor is almost invisible.  The house is roomy and comfortable, and these days when we travel, we look forward to getting home.  Our house is a palace.  (And before you start thinking I’m bragging, anyone who has the technology to read this is living in a palace compared to most of the rest of the world.)

I had almost finished furnishing our new home before I got laid off from my job two and a half years ago.  People who see most of the rooms often comment on the beautiful furniture (all of which I found at scandalously cheap prices).  What they don’t see is that I lost my job before I got to the master bedroom, and our nightstands are made out of glorified particleboard.  My nightstand is about to collapse from years of hard use.  The drawers no longer open because the furniture is off-kilter, and I fully expect to be awakened one night by the nightstand imploding next to me.

It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore all the wonderful surroundings in my life and focus on that stupid nightstand, but that’s human nature.  It’s so easy to focus on the one thing that is wrong, rather than the hundreds of things that are right.  When people say we have a wonderful life, we are tempted to say, “Yes, but —.”  There’s always the nightstand or some other thorn in the flesh ready to remind us that we are failures.

Corrie ten Boom’s story about being grateful for fleas is a potent reminder that every bad thing that happens to us, big and small, can have some blessing associated with it because the Lord does indeed “consecrate our afflictions for our gain.”  The worst things that have happened in my life (and I’m talking about much more important things than nightstands) have been huge blessings in disguise — blessings I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

Readers, we’ll have a new topic next week.  If you have any topic you would like to have discussed in Circle of Sisters, please send an email to [email protected].  Please put something in the subject line to tell me your letter isn’t spam.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Until next week — Kathy

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.