Increasing Our Faith Through Gratitude
It was mid-May, and the beautiful Colorado weather was warm enough to afford me one of my first runs after having delivered our fifth child. I felt at once weighed down and lifted up at the same time. As the light angled down on me from the mountains, I felt a connection with my Heavenly Father. I felt known. Seen. I felt the remarkable sense of being cleansed of all the camouflage I use to make me brave in the world at the same time as I was wrapped up in acceptance and love.
I have come to crave this feeling of being blessed. It is the feeling I get when, for the briefest glorious instant, my eyes are opened to who God is and how much He loves me. It's how I feel when I get a glimpse of another person the way God sees them. When I see His mercy despite heart-rending difficulties. When I understand a simple truth that is precious to my soul.
The scriptures talk both about blessings (as in receiving something from God) and about this state of being blessed. It can be helpful to count our blessings in order to "see what God hath done," but there is a quality of being blessed that has little to do with material possessions or even receiving the answers we seek. This is why, as Dieter Uchtdorf explained, we can "be thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be."
Blessedness—as in "blessed are the poor in spirit," "blessed are they that mourn," "blessed are the meek"—is a feeling of connection with the Divine. It is at once familiar and breathtaking. It is as Moses felt when he, having seen the glory of God, knew that "man is nothing," and yet that he was a beloved son of God. It is the intersection of humility and self-worth. It is gratitude in its deepest sense. It is giving glory to God for all that He is and all that He sees in us.
We all receive blessings from a loving Father in Heaven. But if you struggle to feel blessed, consider the following approaches to recognize and increase your everyday blessedness:
1. Be Blessed
God either gives us blessings, making us blessed or withholds blessings, which means we aren't blessed. Right? Wrong! God showers many blessings upon us in rich abundance, and the question is whether we receive these and thereby become blessed. Expressing gratitude is one way of receiving blessings so that we are blessed. Bonnie Parkin taught that gratitude is an expression of faith. Instead of a list of items God has blessed us with, it becomes a question of whether we allow what He ordains to be a blessing. "[Gratitude] opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love." Thomas Monson taught that "a prayerful life is the key to possessing gratitude." It is in those private moments of grateful prayer that a passive list of blessings becomes an active state of blessedness. You truly feel that you are "blessed of the Lord."
2. Obey God's Law to Be Blessed in ALL Things
Obedience to God's law always brings us into a state of blessedness: "[C]onsider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold they are blessed in all things." (Mosiah 2:41) This cannot logically mean that obedient people suddenly inherit all blessings. Rather, it seems that when we are obedient, all things can be a blessing to us. When we understand blessedness as a condition of joyful connection with God, then we will see even small acts of obedience as opportunities to draw close to Him. And when we are close to Him, even hard things can be blessings.
3. In Heaven's Mercy, We Have Enough
This month is Thanksgiving—a time to celebrate bounty and abundance. But we are ever in danger of putting earthly expectations above the sufficiency of heaven. Heaven's bounty consists of the quiet kindnesses, the little mercies, and chances to start anew. I imagine Thanksgiving should be a little more like the reunion of Jacob and Esau—no elaborate Normal Rockwell table necessary and certainly no mess of pottage! Just the coming together, the hugging, forgiving, letting go of past injuries and saying with generosity, "I have enough." In these moments, we see each other as though we see the face of God.(see Genesis 33:10) If you ever feel, as I often do, that you're not good enough, remember the admonition of Gordon Hinckley: “Please don’t nag yourselves with thoughts of failure....Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know how, and the Lord will accept your effort.” Being acceptable before God is the essence of blessedness.
4. Share and Don't Compare
While it can help us to count our blessings, we must resist the reverse, which is to count our lack or measure our blessings against those of another. A feeling of blessedness does not necessarily increase if our list of blessings is actually longer. Nor is the length of the list any indication of the way God feels about us. He is a God who "giveth and...taketh away," and both are an indication of His love. That being said, there is nothing that makes a meager harvest feel like abundance more than sharing. It's not merely that we condescend to shed a few extra items in someone's direction. Rather, we recognize the flawless truth that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." We are "all beggars," we all hunger for daily bread, and as we feast together in the bond of true friendship, we are all enriched.
This season of harvest can be refreshing to our souls. Let us slow the frantic search for more who-knows-what (and cease the depressing tally of who-has-what), and decide to linger in the feeling of being blessed. It is in our relationship with God—in coming to know Him as He knows us—that we are blessed.In Him, whether in abundance or scarcity, we finally have enough, we are enough, and we see His face in the countenances of those we love, those we forgive, those we serve, and those we remember.
Becca is a contributing author for the Grow Your Faith column of The Small Seed. She can be found any night of the year satiating her addiction to buttered popcorn, she can be recognized by her Lego-induced limp on one side, and, according to knowing sources at the grocery store, she “has her hands full, bless her heart.” Rather than add more to her life, she is trying to keep up what she is already doing, just with more faith and devotion to her Savior Jesus Christ, so it can be said of her, “she hath done what she could.”