"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18
When we were working in the office (back in the ‘good old days’!) there was this one line of a song that our Pastor, Steve, sang on a fairly regular basis. Just the one line. I have no idea what the rest of the words to the song are, or even if there are any other lyrics. However, I’ve come to realise, especially during this time, quite how powerful those five simple words are…
“Count your blessings every day”
I’m aware this is not always easy to do, especially when we are bombarded constantly with negative news stories across multiple media platforms and particularly in the current climate where it can be easy to focus on what we don’t have, what we’re missing, and how difficult things are right now. I can totally relate and those are all valid – it’s important that we recognise these feelings and allow ourselves to truly feel them when we need to. However, in the midst of it all, there are always blessings to be counted – small moments of beauty, appreciating what we do have, something that brings a smile to our face, the sound of birdsong, a phone call from a loved one – sometimes we just need to be intentional in recognising them.
A few years ago, I saw an idea for a blessings jar online and decided to make one for myself. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a glass pasta jar I found at the back of a cupboard with a piece of scripture taped to it. I started out with all the best intentions of writing down daily blessings, things I was thankful for, and putting them in this jar each evening to save for a ‘rainy’ day. However, the novelty soon wore off and my input became sporadic at best. I got caught up in the general busyness of life and forgot about my blessings jar unless something truly significant had happened that day. Then, the Christmas just gone, a dear friend presented me with a beautiful hand-decorated gratitude jar with ‘thank you’ written around it in different languages. Touched by this thoughtful gift I renewed my commitment to write at least one thing I am thankful for at the end of each day and put it in this new jar. At the end of each week I now tip out the jar and go through these blessings, praying and thanking God for them before transferring them to my old pasta blessings jar, which I plan to tip out on New Year’s Day 2021 to reflect back on the blessings during this (very different) year.
During lockdown I’ve truly experienced the positive effect of taking this time each evening to be thankful and reflect on the blessings from my day. I’ve even tipped out the jar on tough days to remind myself of how much God cares for me and the many blessings He pours out on me on a daily basis.
Towards the start of lockdown, I signed up for an online course on ‘The Science of Wellbeing’ in a bid to keep my brain ticking over whilst furloughed. One of the modules looked at the link between gratitude and happiness/wellbeing, with studies suggesting that experiencing gratitude can increase mood, lower stress levels, and can even strengthen the immune system and lower blood pressure. The task (homework) for that week was to record at least five things I was thankful for each day, so I took up the challenge and increased my daily input to the jar. I continued to do so beyond that week and have found I have never run out of blessings to record. This practice has now become an integral part of my nightly routine and one of my favourite parts of the day. No matter what sort of day I’ve had - how I’m feeling, what sort of challenges I may have faced – recalling the blessings from my day helps shift my focus back to the goodness of God. It doesn’t invalidate what I may have struggled with that day or my feelings about it, but reminds me that in spite of this I serve a faithful God who loves to lavish blessings on His children; a God whose mercies never fail, they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
So, whatever you may be facing right now, can I encourage you to count your blessings every day. Why not set yourself the challenge to find at least one thing you are grateful for each day, thank God for it, and see the effect it has.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits