3 Secret Reasons to be Grateful, Even Wen You’re Not

by Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter

 Photo by Dave Parker via Flickr

True confessions:  I’m a recovering worrier.  I can worry at the drop of a hat.  I do some of my best work in the middle of the night.  When a problem gets resolved, my mind naturally searches for the next thing that could possibly go wrong so that I can get a head start.  Worry beads would be wasted on me.  I need boulders.

As bad as that may sound, I’m not as bad as I used to be.  I’ve made progress.  I’ve got more peace of mind, more calm and equanimity, a more positive outlook on life.  What’s made the difference?  Gratitude.

As a Christian, I used to be very suspicious of gratitude.  It seemed a frivolous luxury when there were still people in need, still problems to be solved, and messes still to be cleaned up.  Gratitude seemed better left for carefree atheists or Unitarians or some such people.   For me, a Jewish-Christian, worry equaled caring.

Gratitude has changed that for me.  Even so, I can still lapse into guilt at the holidays, what with its focus on thanksgiving and joy.  Is it really okay to feel grateful…even with people going to bed hungry, even with the globe warming, even with Trump soon to enter the Oval Office? If you’re like me, you may wonder:  What’s a worrier to do?

I thought this would be a good time to reveal the 3 secret reasons to be grateful.  Even if you’re not.  Especially if you’re not.

Gratitude grows faith.  In Philippians 4:4-7, the Apostle Paul famously addressed the worriers at Philippi.  “Rejoice!” he insists.  “Again I say rejoice!” Why the command to rejoice?  When we lace our prayers with gratitude, we create a protective shield against the corrosive power of fear.  Fear is the basis of worry.  While worry paralyzes, gratitude grows faith.

Is everything going right in the world?  Or in your church?  Sure doesn’t seem like it!  But worry and fear do nothing to change that.  Instead, maintaining a connection with the limitless flow of divine love protects us and empowers us.

Gratitude shifts perspective.  Worry and fear generate more worry and fear.  Gratitude opens up the door to new ways of thinking.  Sometimes I play the game of thanking God for things that I think are unjust, unfair, or just plain unwanted.  Like my dear neighbor getting cancer.  Or my insomnia, even when I go to bed at a decent hour.  Or the election of a president I voted against.

Fair warning:  It’s not easy expressing gratitude for things you don’t want.  I feel fake and self-conscious doing it.  But I do it anyway and my synapses get re-arranged.  Worry moves aside.  A new opening appears as I ask:  Could anything good come from this situation?

The answer is yes.  It’s always yes.

Now the yesses were there before I thanked God, but expressing gratitude for situations I didn’t want allows me to see them.  For instance, in the case of my neighbor with cancer, my prayer prompted me to have a different kind of conversation with her.  In the process, I discovered that she had reconciled with her brother, and adopted a stray cat. Who knew?  I wouldn’t have known that.  Likewise, sleepless nights prompt me to pray and mediate; things I don’t do enough of during the day.  Even Trump’s election has prompted all sorts of people to better make their voices be heard.

Here’s what it comes down to:   Pre-gratitude, all I can see is the bad.  Post-gratitude, I can see the good that is also transpiring.   It changes my perspective and expands my awareness.

Gratitude empowers.   Finally, gratitude jolts me out of resignation.  When I give thanks for the things I’m not thankful for, not only are my heart and mind protected from corrosive fear; not only can I see potential good in every situation; I am empowered to act in a way that brings even more goodness into the world.

At a recent church meeting, a group of leaders stopped to pray in the middle of a worrisome situation.  As a result, new ideas came to mind.  One of the women who had been very quiet, and very worried, began to smile tentatively, then more broadly.  “I know!” she said.  “Here’s what I think we could do.”  She surfaced an idea that got good support, and the group moved into action.  As a result, $12,000 was raised to support a family in need.

The world isn’t a perfect place.  Not everything goes the way we would like it to.  But that’s no reason to be immobilized by fear.  Take it from me, a recovering worrier.  Gratitude opens the way to faith, goodness, and action.  Try it this holiday season.  Even if you’re not grateful.  Especially if you’re not grateful.


rebekah-simon-peterRev. Rebekah Simon-Peter is an ordained Elder in the Rocky Mountain Conference and founder of Rebekah Simon-Peter Coaching and Consulting Inc. Rebekah continues to offer top-notch innovative coaching, consulting, workshops, seminars, and classes. She is also the author of several books including her most recent, The Jew Named Jesus.  Rebekah lives in Casper, Wyoming with her husband, Jerry and two furry friends.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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