Gratitude When Life’s a Train Wreck?
by S. James Webb, D.D.
“You’ve got to be kidding. My life is falling apart, and I’m supposed to be grateful?”
I know that sounds just insane when everything has turned to disaster. If you or your loved one is battling a serious, even terminal disease, if you’ve lost your job or even your home, if your marriage or long-term relationship is in serious trouble or over…
Sometimes life can be just plain hell, and I’m not going to sugar-coat it.
But you still have a choice. You always have a choice.
You may not have a choice about what’s happening, but you always have a choice about how you react to it.
“Doc, this sounds like a bunch of irrelevant pie-in-the-sky happy-talk. Give me something real to help me.”
Well, here’s the deal: the reality is, here you are standing in the middle of the bleeping train wreck. That’s the reality, so let’s acknowledge it for what it is, and not try to pretend that it’s a wonderful thing. Maybe later you can see a blessing in it, or maybe not, but right now the situation frankly sucks.
So first, ask yourself: “Do I really help myself or anyone else by sinking into depression, rage, self-pity, or mental paralysis?”
I guess the answer’s obvious, isn’t it?
It’s not really easy to get into a resourceful state of mind when you’re deep in a crisis. But being in a resourceful state is the absolute best way to get through it.
One of the best ways ever to get into a resourceful state is to practice gratitude. That’s right, I said practice gratitude. That means you’re going to have to work at it, because if it came easy you wouldn’t need this article.
Now, this is basically simple, but don’t confuse simple with easy. So here’s your homework.
Get something to write with, and something to write on.
Start numbering. List just one thing you can be grateful for. Anything, I don’t care how small. If you can’t think of anything to be personally grateful for, think of something out there in the world to be thankful for. Be thankful that not everyone is going through the same thing you are. That there are beautiful wonderful things happening out there, somewhere, to somebody.
Now do it again. And when you run out of things, stop. Then tomorrow pick up your list again, write down the next number, and re-read your list from the day before. Then add at least one more thing.
Repeat every day.
Pretty soon you’ll find yourself seeing good things. You’ll find that the depression, the rage, the hopelessness begins to lift a little, a moment here, another moment there, before long maybe even two or three moments at a time.
No, this may not magically turn the situation around. But it will start to put you in a more resourceful state of mind, and you’ll find yourself choosing more positive thoughts, and even finding some solutions that you never would have seen had you stayed in the negative state of mind.
The situation might not change, but you can find peace, empowerment, and unbelievably, even joy within tragedy if you’re faithful to this simple but profound process.
At first, every time you think of something good, you might find your mind automatically presents you with a “yeah but.” Example: “I’m grateful that I still have eyes to see.” “Yeah but – all I see is sadness.”
Okay, That’s normal. Expect those things, and when they come along just say to yourself “oh, that’s one of those yeah-buts.” Go ahead and notice it, just don’t give it a lot of thought. Then turn your mind back to your gratitude list. You’ll probably have to do this over and over again.
It’s kind of a discipline, really. It’s your homework. Do this. Seriously. Get started now.
Can’t think of anything to be grateful for? Here’s one: Be grateful this article is over ;-).