The Enabling Power of Gratitude

The following are portions from a talk I was asked to give in church on November 22, 2009--exactly one month before we learned that Talitha had a life-threatening brain tumor. I had no way of knowing what was about to happen but a loving Father in Heaven did and He quite literally opened my eyes to the power of Gratitude just in the nick of time. The principles I learned in preparing this talk changed my life and have supported me nearly on a daily basis ever since.

Special thanks to our friend Julie Young for the beautiful artwork, "The Enabling Power of Gratitude".

I begin with the premise that our cups are at least half full and that they can only be lacking through a determined blindness to God, His plan, and His provision.

This point is made clear by the Lord:

“If thou art called to pass through tribulation; ... if thou art in perils by land or by sea; … and if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, … and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, … that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:5-7)

The scriptures continue:
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21)

Notice that the Lord did not say that acknowledgement (or gratitude) is reserved for those times that everything is going the way we want it to be.

I’ve learned that blessings are attached to commandments. The Lord loves us so He gives us commandments to bless us. The blessings of gratitude are substantial and substantive and that’s what I never realized before.

Gratitude is a power much like electricity. We have the power to turn it on or off as if like a light switch. When it’s on, it gives us power to endure all things.

Without gratitude, we slip into judgment of ourselves, of others, and even of God and become blind to the reality of what the purpose of life is.

Imagine looking through a one-way glass. That’s the kind of glass that appears to be a mirror on one side and a regular window you can see through on the other. These are used in day care centers so parents can observe their children without their children knowing they are being watched. In fact, because the children are absorbed in their own little worlds, they are oblivious to what is really going on outside.

When we exercise gratitude—and I use the word exercise because sometimes it’s hard work to be grateful—it’s like we are looking through the glass and seeing the big picture and knowing how the pieces all fit.

But when we slip OUT of gratitude and into judgment and pride, it’s as if we have purposely shut ourselves out from the truth and walk into a closed room where all we see are the one way mirrors that focus us on ourselves and our pitiful, miserable existence where no one cares, and no one ever does anything for us, and God has abandoned us, and woe is me, and I hate my life, and nothing ever goes right for me, and I’m stuck, and I judge myself and others, and I covet, and I’m obsessed with the world, and I’m completely and utterly spiritually blind. In this state of blind, inward obsession, we really are stuck. And because we can’t see that God has given us everything, we don’t believe He can give us anything and we stop “inquiring of the Lord.” We murmur, and despise, and despair, and cut ourselves off from the very supply we accuse God of withholding from us. His hand is outstretched still, yet like spoiled children we run to our room and pout and refuse to be comforted or helped.

Why do you think the Lord says over and over everywhere in the scriptures….remember, remember. When we “remember, remember” we keep the portals of His grace wide open and receive light, and knowledge, sustenance and support. We gratefully embrace our trials because we know that is how He blesses us and strengthens us. We don’t panic because we know He’s been there for us before and He’ll be with us again. As the beautiful hymn says, “We doubt not the Lord nor His goodness; we’ve proved Him in days that are past.” We don’t need to keep putting the Lord on trial. He never lets us down. That’s already been proven. Facing our trials with gratitude turns on the light so we can see better in the dark.

In expressing praise and gratitude while in the midst of trials, our energy shifts upward with a god-sent confidence that inspires greater hope and resources to enliven the situation and unfold better solutions, better outcomes.

But if we resort to anger, bitterness, or judgment especially when under extreme pressure, we cut our own legs out from under us. Frustration and fear kill faith and close off the heavenly lines of support. Spiritual blindness ensues and we are left to our own devices unable, unwilling to search or see the solutions God is willing to provide.

“Gratitude is twin sister to humility; pride is a foe to both.” (James E. Talmage)

Let’s get excited about the journey that lies before us. Let’s NOT focus on the things of the world. Let’s focus on the Lord’s omnipotent hand and His power to deliver on all His promises.

Can the Lord part the Red Seas of our life while the pressures of life are bearing down on us and we have no way to escape? Yes, “we’ve proved Him in days that are past.”

Can he take us and our families through life’s deserts and see us through the impossible task of crossing oceans of trials? Yes, “we’ve proved Him in days that are past.”

Can he take us in our worn-out state with our handcarts of challenge through the wintry perils of frozen hopes and dreams and losses too great to number and build of us a generation fit for His kingdom? Yes, “we’ve proved Him in days that are past.”

It’s our turn now. We are invited to stand up and be counted. Will we get knocked down? Most likely. Will it hurt sometimes? Probably. If we want to be true followers of Christ like those who’ve gone before, we must expect to pass through the refiner’s fire to be made ready for our own mission and purpose.

With the enabling power of Gratitude, we will have increased capacity to hold to the rod and to avoid the natural man tendency to slip into that blinding state of judgment and pride.

Best of all, true gratitude brings the kind of assurance given us by our Savior when He said:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

~William Black