by Scott Nelson
One of the dreaded parts of high school football, when I played, was “Hellweek.” This week included two (or three) practices a day, lots of conditioning, and the first days of tackling in full pads. The weather was hot, and we were constantly exhausted. Even though we would eat a lot, it was not uncommon to lose 5-10 pounds during this week. It was miserable. But every year, there were a few guys on the team who would make it tolerable. They would goof around, have fun, and pull practical jokes . I don’t know where they got the energy, but their attitudes gave the rest of us energy. Once I asked one of them how he managed to have a good attitude. He answered, “Hellweek is tough for me, too. But there is no way around it. And if I am going to be here, I may as well have fun and make it fun for others, too.”
Attitude changes so much of how we feel, what we think, and how we act. I have seen this so many times in my own life and my experiences with others. And I believe one of the most important attitudes I can have is gratitude, or thankfulness. The Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Prov 17:22), and that we are to have the attitude of Christ (Phil 2:5). The New Testament alone has the word “thankfulness” over 70 times! For Christians, thankfulness is not about our circumstances but our focus on Jesus—His love for us, His forgiveness, and His presence. This is how Paul—who had been beaten, whipped, and unjustly accused—could say, “Be thankful in all circumstances.” (1 Thess 5:18)
We are in the middle of a pandemic. It has been going on (globally) for over a year. For many people, gratitude is gone. It is hard to be thankful when so much has happened this year. People are frustrated at the actions of others, or the government, or the church, or their workplace. Every change made to combat the virus seems to grow more frustration, and our thankfulness can wane. It is precisely at times like these—especially as Thanksgiving approaches—that we need a gratitude adjustment.
I want to suggest five ways to adjust your attitude:
- Start your day with thanks to God. What is the first thing you do every morning? Many people grab their phone, turn on the TV, or start reading the news. Before any of those things, start the day with saying thanks to God. After all, you are alive (a good thing) and loved by Jesus (even better). Before anything else, maybe even when you first open your eyes, give God thanks—and see the difference it will make in the rest of your day.
- Create a “Gratitude List.” In our minds we frequently have a “negative list.” Don’t believe me? Tell me all the bad things about this last week, month, or year. It won’t take you long! We tend to keep track of the negative things and forget many of the positive things. It is helpful to have a “gratitude list” to remember our blessings. You could make this on your phone, in a journal, or even post it in your house. If you have kids or grandkids, this is a powerful visual.
- Fill your prayers with thanks. This one may seem strange because most people give God thanks in their prayers. But I am suggesting that we load up our prayers with thanksgiving. This doesn’t mean we can’t have other elements in our prayers (requests, confession, Kingdom prayers). There is so much for which we can thank our Father—His love, salvation, provision, protection, promises, teaching, discipline, rescue, loved ones, church family, and more.
- Send a text or note saying thank you to someone, every day. This one is pretty self-explanatory, and what a great habit to have! Some of us are known for the complaining we do. What if we were known for our encouragement?
- End the day with God, thinking about three things for which you are thankful. I am a big fan of self-reflection and honest evaluation. As we evaluate, it is so easy to focus on the negative—in our lives and in ourselves. We need to be honest about the good things, too. How we end the day really matters. End every day in prayer—thanking God for (at least) three people, events, or things in your life. This is the perfect way to end the day.
When I have gone to the chiropractor, my appointments end with an “adjustment.” This feels unnatural at first because I am twisted in a weird position, but once the doctor works his or her magic, I can instantly feel my back realign. The adjustment helps everything fall into place. With God’s help and some daily habits, we can get a gratitude adjustment. Look at the list of five suggestions above and find one or two you can begin today. It will make a difference!