Recently a client forwarded some information she discovered in a business book. The book, 5 Bold Choices, targets businesspeople. However, she gleaned powerful information about looking at your setbacks as opportunities instead of disasters. “The very difficulty before you is the portal of your significance, and the bold choices you make now in these tough times will determine your better tomorrow.” I love that my client shared this with me. Seeing her growth thrills me.
Why do I love this quote from my client so much? Because it reflects God’s truth.
Jesus taught us about four ways every human responds to difficulty and temptation.
As Jesus unpacked this story with His disciples, He explained the four different ways we respond to hearing the truth.
- Dismiss. Those who dismiss God’s truth can’t hear or see it. They’re so caught up in life’s difficulty and temptation, they’re stuck.
- Wilt. For the ones who can see the truth, they initially take it in but wilt when struggles come.
- Choke. There are also those who see the truth, begin to act on it, but then choke on the pain, temptation, and life circumstances. They eventually quit fighting.
- Grow. The victorious ones are those who hear the truth, grab it, deal with each crisis as it comes, and personally grow (mature) to change their future.
I learned years ago that to be a victorious one—to grow—meant practicing gratitude IN the crisis.
How do we honestly practice gratitude in a crisis?
How do you begin your day? If you’ve been up all night with a sick child, anxiety, or insomnia, all you might think about is a huge hit of caffeine. Hopefully, this isn’t your norm. Or do you immediately hop onto social media, turn on the TV, or crank up talk radio? I’ve discovered that HOW I start my day affects the entire day.
Let me suggest a new morning ritual.
- Drink a glass of water before you have any caffeine. Your body is dehydrated after sleeping. Wake it up gently with some water.
- Enjoy your caffeinated beverage. Sip it. Savor it. Experience the pleasure you receive from drinking it.
- Read a Bible passage. Just pick a place to start and read a few verses, a whole chapter, or several pages. There’s no “right” formula; just do it. The Psalms are great. Or try the Gospel of John, the New Testament, or read through the Bible in a year (you can access these plans easily). Ask God to show you what He wants you to learn about him through your reading. If something jumps out at you, stop, and process it.
Start each day’s entry by praising God for who He is. Talk with Him about how you’ve seen Him at work in your life. If you haven’t seen Him working, talk with him about that as well. You focus on what is good in your life. In my experience, once I start writing these thoughts down, more follow.
The first few times I did this when Dave and I were in our initial recovery, it was tough. Real tough. But I kept at it, determined to find a healthy release for my pain and frustration. Some days, I could only jot down one thing. That’s okay. It was a start.
Part of journaling I find most valuable is the ability to process my thoughts. I learned to write it out, draw it out, cry it out on paper. I found that this habit became a healthy release for the pain in my heart and soul. Writing also provided a safe place to ask those crazy questions ricocheting in my mind. There were no rules or concerns about someone looking over my shoulder and correcting me. Just my thoughts and communication with God over time. A funny thing happened though. As I asked those questions, voiced the fears and pain, and whined out my frustration and sense of loss, God began to answer me. Sometimes, as I was whining, a thought popped into my head directly related to the struggle. I’d jot it down. Most often, though, something happened during the day to answer the question or shed light on the struggle. On my next day of journaling, I’d note those answers. Then, I’d praise God once again for meeting me in the crisis.
Guard your inputs.
How does this help you practice gratitude? Think about it. You respond to the information you acquire. When God brings others who point you to Him, you find strength. These are people who encourage you and lift your eyes from your problems to new opportunities.
However, when you focus on the “Negative Nancy’s” of the world, you find yourself more frustrated and convinced the world is out to get you. You wilt and choke because you can’t get untangled from the weeds. And those caught in the weeds don’t want you to leave. Because if you do, they might discover they don’t have to be caught there either.
Satan loves to keep us distracted. He doesn’t want us to surround ourselves with those who continually point us to Jesus and His way through the pain. In CS Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape explains to his nephew Wormwood that “the safest road to hell is the gradual one.” So true. What better way to derail us from living a profound life than to distract us by ordinary life temptations, to keep us focused on what isn’t working the way we want?
Speak your gratitude out loud.
Sounds crazy, right? However, from experience, I can tell you this simple gesture makes a huge impact on your thoughts, feelings, and actions. The first time I did this, hearing my voice tell God what I felt thankful for changed the atmosphere in the room. I was alone, so it felt safe. I told Him I appreciated His continual presence, His faithful provision, His love, and so much more.
Up to that point, I’d journaled and prayed about some of the same things. However, speaking it brought a new dimension to my hope during the crisis. Educators tell us that the more senses we can employ while learning something, the stronger the learning. Amanda Morin, in her article “What Is Multisensory Instruction?” says, “Multisensory teaching isn’t limited to reading and listening. Instead, it tries to use all the senses . . . it conveys information through things like touch and movements—called tactile and kinesthetic elements—as well as sight and hearing.” She says that kids who learn something using more than one sense are more likely to retain that information.
So my experiment worked. As I spoke out loud, my heart and mind heard the good. That hearing, in turn, triggered my brain to look for other things for which I would be grateful. This process accelerated my healing.
Tell yourself the truth.
You and I are good at rationalization and justification. “Maybe it’s better to ignore what’s happening in my marriage. If I don’t poke it, perhaps it will resolve itself and go away.” We choke the truth and expect our normal to change direction. We can justify our negative behavior but get angry about his. Or we resort to negative tactics to try to heal the wounds we see and feel. But none of that works.
Truth-telling involves acknowledging what’s happening—we’re in a crisis caused by [blank]—and seeking the solution to that crisis. God tells us the truth sets us free.
When Dave and I faced our marriage crisis years ago, I wasn’t sure God was right about telling the truth. I knew I’d be rejected, condemned, judged, laughed at, or ignored. But what happened was the opposite. I found freedom—just like God said. When Dave and I took that first bold step, to tell the truth, we found the help we needed.
Gratitude freely erupts when you acknowledge the truth. You know there’s nothing to fear any longer. What do you need to speak the truth about today?
Jesus’s story about the seed helps us understand how we process truth. It’s time to choose to grow and learn to practice gratitude about what God does in our lives every day even in a crisis.
Throughout the entire process of my healing (which continues today), I’ve learned the more I practice gratitude about the small and large things, the more I see God’s goodness and life’s possibilities. Where are you today?
Which one of these practices would help you discover more gratitude in your crisis?
If you find yourself stuck, please reach out. I promise to listen, encourage, and help you discover a way forward. Perhaps we’ll even find a few ways to express gratitude.