November is recognised by many as the month for thankfulness. A few weeks back I was finding it difficult to be thankful for anything. My physical health had taken a dive and I was struggling on many fronts - church life, home life, family life. My mental health, so closely connected to my physical well-being, was also not good. I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I felt that I just couldn't cope, and the thought of one more responsibility sent me into a deeper depression. I could see no way out and no hope for improvement. My focus was narrow - all I could see was my struggles.
We can become blinkered when we are in the midst of our difficulties, trials and struggles. Our circumstances can then become all that we see. Horses sometimes wear blinkers (or blinders) to keep them focused on what's in front of them. Blinkers are good for horses. However, they are not good for us.
We need to remove our blinkers so that we can get a change of perspective. So we can change our focus from our problems to our God who is bigger than our problems. Blinkers cause our perspective to be narrow but removing them widens our perspective so we can see the bigger picture.
One way to remove our blinkers and change our focus is to choose an attitude of thankfulness towards God - for who he is, what he means to us, what he has done for us and what he has given us. This won't change our circumstances, but it will change our attitude towards our circumstances. We will see there is more to life than what we are dealing with right now.
I can remember the chorus of a hymn we used to sing when I was a child.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
"Blessings" by Johnson Oatman Jr. 1897 (Full lyrics found at the end of this post)
Have you ever done that? I've found it true that when I take time out and think about all that God has done for me, given me, and who he is, I'm surprised at how much I have to be thankful for. I so quickly forget when my focus is on me and my problems. It does me far more good to focus on God than on my situation with all it's difficulties.
So I've chosen that for this month of November I will think each day in the morning of three things from the previous day that I am thankful to God for blessing me with.
I say I'm choosing to do this, because I know that there will still be some days when I may not necessarily feel like being thankful, but I can still choose to be thankful whether I feel like it or not.
"I will praise you, , with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done." Psalm 9:1 (NLT)
I've decided to be specific in my thanksgiving to God. So rather than making a generalised statement such as "Thank you for my family" I will think about the previous day and choose something specific to be thankful for such as "Thank you God for Jason who cooked us our evening meal because he knew I didn't have the energy to cook it myself." Or "Thank you God for Jess' willingness to take Rue (our puppy) out for a walk after school."
As I ponder whilst writing this, I realise that there is more I can do. I can remember to thank the person themselves at the time and show my appreciation of them. I'm usually good at doing this - but maybe not so much when I've kept my blinkers on and been more focused on myself. I also don't need to wait until my morning time of thanksgiving to God, I can develop the habit of giving him thanks in the present as and when I recognise his blessing.
"in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (AMP).
To Think About:
Will you remove your blinkers so that you can begin to see the big picture more easily?
Will you take the opportunity of this month to find three things to daily thank God for (whether it is first thing in the morning or last thing at night)?
I have downloaded the "Thanksgiving Gratitude Prayer Guide" from http://www.biblestudytools.com/ Each day for thirty days it gives something to be thankful for, a short thought and some bible verses and sometimes an action. A great tool for this month to help us in our thankfulness. You may like to download and use it yourself.
Lyrics to "Count Your Blessings":