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How Uncounting Blessings Helps Us Give Thanks

When we are striving to feel more gratitude it is sometimes the little things that help us give thanks the most.

I have often been taught precious truths by my children.  When they were very young, we lived in San Diego, in a duplex behind another house in an older part of town. There were small apartment complexes on either side of us.  One day, I’d had enough!  It didn’t matter how often I sprayed, cleaned, disinfected, or fussed, there were cockroaches in my kitchen. They were indestructible and probably older than our 50-year-old house! 

I bemoaned, “Cockroaches are the most disgusting, vile creatures on the planet!  I cannot for the life of me figure out why God would have created such awful, horrible bugs!”

My son, Jameson, then 4 or 5, listened to my rant and calmly said, “Mom, I know why Heavenly Father created cockroaches.” 

“And why is that?” I huffed.

“Because if we didn’t have cockroaches, we wouldn’t appreciate how beautiful butterflies are!”  

I’m still not sure I am grateful for cockroaches. But I am grateful for insightful children. 

Opposition IN All Things

We are taught in 2nd Nephi (2:11), “For it must needs be there is an opposition in all things…”  We should then not be surprised when we are faced with trials, tribulation, doubt, pain, and anguish.  Each of our lives is unique in our experience, but no one escapes the travails of mortal life.  How else could we understand joy or the beauty of everyday miracles like butterflies? 

Then Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “…we should even give thanks for our afflictions because they turn our hearts to God and give us opportunities to prepare for what God would have us become. The Lord taught the prophet Moroni, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble,” and then promised that “if they humble themselves … and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

In the midst of the persecutions the Latter-day Saints were suffering in Missouri, the Lord taught a similar promise: “Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks; … and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good” (D&C 98:1, 3). And to Joseph Smith in the afflictions of Liberty Jail, the Lord said, “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).

We are commanded in the scriptures to be “give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:38–39, D&C 59:7) and to “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). The keyword in these scripture verses is “in”. 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings”—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.”

We are admonished not only to endure to the end but to “endure it well” (D&C 121:8).  While we may understand this in context, it is much more difficult to do in real life. I think the ability to accomplish this comes through gratitude.  

Dallin H. Oaks explained, “When we give thanks in all things, we see hardships and adversities in the context of the purpose of life. We are sent here to be tested. There must be opposition in all things. We are meant to learn and grow through that opposition…”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares similar thoughts, “Choose to be grateful, no matter what. This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation.”

Gratitude as an Expression of Faith

From personal experience, please know there may be times when you truly are grateful, know you are blessed beyond measure, and still feel unloved, or sad, or depressed. It’s okay. I do not believe one is exclusive of the other. However, continuing to express gratitude during your troubles is a humble expression of faith that will keep the Lord close and allow Him to help bear your burden.

I suspect that the “thank you’s” offered in the depths of despair are the most treasured because they are priceless tokens of trust, especially when trusting Spirit is the last thing in the world you want to do.”

Sarah Ban Breathnach, The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude

Give Thanks in Trials

Sometimes our trials and afflictions come at the hands of others.  My family went through a very difficult time because of the choices of another.  One day at church, a well-meaning woman with only a peripheral understanding of my personal situation said to me, “I’m so impressed that you’ve remained active through all of the stuff going on in your life. I don’t know if I would be able to do it, feeling as if God had abandoned me, by allowing so many bad things to happen.” 

My somewhat surprising response to her was, “And where would I go?  My Savior and knowledge of the Gospel are the only reasons I’ve survived.  I am so grateful for my testimony. It’s all that I truly have.”  

On separate occasions in later years, two of my boys have expressed their gratitude for this same time in their life.  They told me that while they would not wish those difficult years of their childhood on anyone, they were grateful for the challenges they faced while growing up because it helped mold them into the men they are today.

During November it has become somewhat of a tradition on social media to share posts of gratitude.  Last year, Russell M. Nelson, encouraged each of us to #givethanks.  I thoroughly enjoy reading these and sharing vicariously in the joy of friends, family, and acquaintances. They remind me of my own countless blessings.

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

Eckhart Tolle

Uncounting Blessings

Oftentimes we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.  In Mr. Walker’s 5th grade class, we did A LOT of math.  The new concept we were learning was hard!  We complained and whined, “This is too hard!” “We’ll never use this in real life!”  “I wish we never had to do math again!” 

The next day we came to class.  The clock was gone. Rulers, yardsticks and the calendar were missing. If we wore a watch, it was put into a box.  For an entire day, we did not do any math.  If asked to read aloud, we had to skip any number or reference to one.  We couldn’t do music. We didn’t know when recess was.  If we brought lunch money, instead of having a pre-paid ticket, we had to get a special exemption to eat. And we learned to appreciate math, even though it is sometimes hard. The lesson has stuck with me for 50 years.  

I want to challenge you to a different way of acknowledging the good in your life.  I want you to UNCOUNT your blessings. 

In business, a common tool used to find the root cause of an issue is called the 5 whys.  Let’s instead call our experiment the “5 what-ifs”.

Pick one specific blessing, large or small, whether it be a family member, friend, job, health, Christmas, math, whatever…and apply the “5 what-ifs” to see what your life would be like without that blessing.

Write down your blessing, then answer the question, “What if (INSERT BLESSING) didn’t exist or wasn’t a part of my life.” Write down your answer.  And then “what if” I didn’t have that….and then “what if” and so on.  Think about all the details and the widening picture of what life would be like without your chosen blessing.  Do it as a family home evening activity or on your own.

I think you’ll find even the smallest joy in your life would have a profound impact if it were NOT there.  Discovering and recognizing abundance among the good and even the frustrations in our everyday lives allows us the opportunity to feel gratitude and joy.   

So, UNCOUNT your blessings, name them one by one, and it may surprise you what the Lord has done…….

I promise it will help your perspective as you choose to be grateful in ALL things….

Gratitude as a Catalyst

One Saturday, I begrudgingly took time out of my very busy and important day to fulfill my assignment to help clean the church.  I didn’t want to be there. I had things to do! As I was vacuuming the foyer absentmindedly thinking of all I could and should be doing, organizing my errands and to-do list in my head as I pushed the vacuum back and forth.  I looked up and found myself quite literally vacuuming at the Savior’s feet. 

I stopped and stared at him. Tears sprung to my eyes, with an “I’m sorry.”  I was immediately overcome with a sense of peace and gratitude so profound it nearly dropped me to my knees. I stood there with tears streaming down my face.  My Savior had given me SO much! Including a beautiful building in which to worship and learn of Him.  How could I complain about such a small sacrifice?  And just like that my perspective changed to one of thanks.  It became a blessing and privilege to serve Him by cleaning His house. 

In my research on the topic of gratitude, I thought it interesting that three quotes I found talked about “Gratitude as a catalyst….”  I like thinking of gratitude as a verb and a call to action. 

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness.  It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul” —Amy Collette

“Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes… A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Gratitude is the catalyst for change….the essence of becoming….thus going about doing good”  —Ed Pinegar

And it’s true. When we feel blessed, it is a natural response to want to share our gratitude with those around us.  We want them to feel the same joy we do. We speak words of appreciation, but we can also express our gratitude through service. 

What gratitude does is empower and encourage us to mobilize for change, and to serve the people around us. Whether it is through a simple act of kindness to a stranger or finding time for a friend who has been a gift in your own life, gratitude can be morphed into something that is filled with love and kindness and community.”

Ed Nunez

Wouldn’t the world be a different place if everyone chose to spend their efforts and time in thanksgiving and service, rather than imbittered entitlement?

Let gratitude be a catalyst in your life, starting now. “Light the World—with love” begins now.  Find a way to love your neighbor by serving him. Download the calendar for daily idea prompts of what to do.  Is there a Giving Machines in your area you could visit?er. 

Visit JustServe.org for hundreds of ideas. Be a good neighbor and share a treat, shovel a driveway—if it ever snows, leave a note on a random windshield to let someone know they matter, share a smile, give a hug, do something at home without being asked.  Encourage those you serve to pay it forward. Be a catalyst of joy, service, happiness, compassion — of gratitude.

Give Thanks Takeaways

  • Look for and find a miralce every day.
  • Remember to #givethanks in all things.
  • Embrace the lbessing in every trial and be grateful that Heavenly Father cares enough to help us learn what is needed to get back home.
  • Choose to not make counting your blessings a checklist or duty without emotion.
  • Uncount our blessings to discover their depth
  • Recogize who is at the Source of all good things (and it’s all good).
  • And though we will always be “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:20-21), may we live our lives in gratitude, with a thankful heart.
How Uncounting Blessings Helps Us Give Thanks 1

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How Uncounting Blessings Helps Us Give Thanks

How Uncounting Blessings Helps Us Give Thanks 2
Resources:

“Give Thanks in All Things”, Dallin H. Oaks (April 2003)
“Grateful in Any Circumstances”, Deiter F. Uchtdorf (April 2014)

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