Embracing emotion doesn’t come naturally to me.
To be honest, 98.5% of the time, I have a hard time feeling anything at all. Even when I do, I subconsciously try to suppress those feelings. Call it a weird psychological trait, if you will.
Yet this lack of feeling can be a bit of a problem when it comes to the Christian life. We Christians are supposed to be intensely joyful people who don’t back down from emotions, and one cannot be a joyful person if one suppresses emotion. During a recent family Bible study time with the younger children, we talked about how Christians should have the joy of God in our hearts because Jesus has saved us, and I realized just how much I had strayed from that perspective.
But God never leaves a problem without a solution. I have been studying Jeff Myers’ course on biblical leadership (yes, I have the most awesome college ever!) and recently Dr Myers taught about the three foundations of leadership. The first is vision- knowing what you want to have accomplished at the end of your life. The second is mission- the practical steps that help you to achieve your vision. The third one is gratitude.
(*Cue the crickets*) Seriously? Gratitude? I know, it seems far-fetched. Of all the things that Dr Myers could have cited as a foundation for leadership… integrity, honesty, courage, ingenuity, flexibility, humanity… why would he say gratitude is the foundation? Is it really so important?
Yet I decided to give it a try. I revived my old habit of thanking God for three things every morning and trying to remember throughout the day that I have been blessed with those three things. I could thank God for anything- faithfulness, chocolate, adjectives… anything goes. It was a simple practice that I could do every morning after reading my Bible and every night before I fell asleep. And do you know what? The results surprised me.
Now you may have heard what psychological research says. Having a grateful attitude causes people to be more satisfied, optimistic, agreeable, spiritual, and neurologically healthy. And of course, all of those things did indeed happen, and I did get a lot more work done with much more fulfillment than before.
But– I wasn’t prepared for how much more gratefulness this little exercise gave me.
Recently, as I was lying in bed, thanking God again for those three blessings, I remembered one in particular for that day: words. I was thankful for words. I remembered how I had used words throughout the day- for encouragement and enlightenment (well, debate), as well as for hurting others. I prayed about all of these things, and then I realized that another blessing: that God gave us the tool of language to help us accomplish His plan. Again, when I thanked God for creating the trees and grass, I forgot about the terrible Texas allergies and was able to thank God for the sheer beauty of springtime.
Maybe I am inclined to overthink things, but in this case, it’s not a matter of overthinking. The bottom line is that, when I made a prayerful effort to be grateful, God helped me to feel more gratitude. It really just put the whole world back into perspective for me.
I know it’s hard to feel grateful sometimes. Yet when I experience that feeling of thankfulness, I realize that it’s something I don’t want to miss anymore. And I don’t want you to miss it, either, which is why I am writing about it on a blog. I want to challenge you- informally- to thank God every day for just three things in your life and continue to thank Him throughout the day. See how it changes your perspective.