As I contemplate this season of Thanksgiving, I find it hard not to feel that overwhelming joy that comes when you recognize your blessings. I think of being surrounded by family, some of whom I haven’t seen in a while, and my heart is full. I think of my children and the joy they freely express when they see their cousins and hug their aunts and uncles. I think of Christmas coming and I am thankful that this year we can spoil our children a bit and yes, that makes me happy. Most of all, I am thankful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am thankful for the Atonement because it has made me whole; because it has made joy possible.
I often think of the parable of the ten lepers: Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one returned to give thanks to the Lord for the wonderful gift of renewed health and wellness. Jesus then said “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:19)
Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, in her talk “Gratitude: A Path to Happiness”, (Ensign, May 2007, 34–36) said of this verse:
“The leper’s expression of gratitude was recognized by , we are also expressing our faith in Him. Gratitude is our sweet acknowledgment of the Lord’s hand in our lives; it is an expression of our faith.”
Until I read that I had never entirely understood why Jesus said ‘thy faith’ rather than ‘thy gratitude’. Now I understand that giving thanks is a symptom or byproduct of faith. Without faith we would not know to whom to give our thanks, we might even think we deserve the blessings or that they come wholly from our own actions. But I know that is not true. Because of faith in the Divine, I can see blessings everywhere I turn and I know to Whom to give my thanks.
Sister Parkin also said
“Gratitude requires awareness and effort, not only to feel it but to express it. Frequently we are oblivious to the Lord’s hand. We murmur, complain, resist, criticize; so often we are not grateful. In the Book of Mormon, we learn that those who murmur do not know “the dealings of that God who … created them.” (1 Ne: 2:12)”
It is important for us to set aside our murmurings in order to count our blessings. But once you make the effort, you will find it easier and easier to find the good amid the bad and then, through giving thanks you may find that the bad is tolerable.
My husband and I longed to have children. We felt it was the fulfillment of our existence and because it was a righteous desire we felt we would certainly be blessed. Time and again we found ourselves with child, only to have the baby die before it could be born. Finally, after many such experiences we discovered the cause of our losses: I had a disorder in my blood that would cause blood clots if left untreated. If we had managed to carry to term any of our pregnancies, untreated, the likelihood that my husband would either face the future alone or widowed with a small child, was high. If it had not been for our trial in having children, we might never have known about this hidden danger lurking within my body and because of it, my life was saved. Not all of life’s challenges come with decoder rings, like this one I described. Many times we are left to endure our trials without any explanation. Nevertheless, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7)
The Lord also said : “Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.” (D&C 78:18-19)
Whatever your circumstance this holiday season, find something to be thankful for. Even the smallest of things can be cause for great thanksgiving. I promise you that once you begin to give thanks for the blessings you have been given, your heart and eyes will be open and you will soon find there are many more things for which to give thanks. Your Father in Heaven loves you and He longs to bless you. Happy Thanksgiving!