“The Choice to Be Grateful,” Ensign, Dec. 2011, 4–6
Our Father in Heaven commands us to be thankful in all things (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18), and He requires that we give thanks for the blessings we receive (see D&C 46:32). We know that all of His commandments are intended to make us happy, and we also know that to break commandments leads to misery.
So to be happy and to avoid misery, we must have a grateful heart. We have seen in our lives the connection between gratitude and happiness. All of us would like to feel gratitude, yet it is not easy to be consistently grateful in all things in the trials of life. Sickness, disappointment, and the loss of people we love come at times in our lives. Our sorrows can make it hard to see our blessings and to appreciate the blessings God has in store for us in the future.
It is a challenge to count our blessings because we have a tendency to take good things for granted. When we lose a roof over our heads, food to eat, or the warmth of friends and family, we realize how grateful we should have been when we had them.
Most of all, sometimes it is hard for us to be sufficiently grateful for the greatest gifts we receive: the birth of Jesus Christ, His Atonement, the promise of resurrection, the opportunity to enjoy eternal life with our families, the Restoration of the gospel with the priesthood and its keys. Only with the help of the Holy Ghost can we begin to feel what those blessings mean for us and for those we love. And only then can we hope to be thankful in all things and avoid the offense to God of ingratitude.
We must ask in prayer that God, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will help us see our blessings clearly even in the midst of our trials. He can help us by the power of the Spirit to recognize and be grateful for blessings we take for granted. What has helped me the most is to ask God in prayer, “Wouldst Thou please direct me to someone I can help for Thee?” It is in helping God bless others that I have seen my own blessings more closely.
My prayer was once answered when a couple I had not known before invited me to go to a hospital. There I found a little baby so small that she could fit in my hand. In only a few weeks of life, she had undergone multiple surgeries. The doctors had told the parents that more difficult surgery would be needed for the heart and lungs to sustain life in that little child of God.
At the request of the parents, I gave the baby a priesthood blessing. The blessing included a promise of life being extended. More than giving a blessing, I received the blessing myself of a more grateful heart.
With our Father’s help, all of us can choose to feel more gratitude. We can ask Him to help us see our blessings more clearly, whatever our circumstances. For me that day, I appreciated as never before the miracle of my own heart and lungs working. I gave thanks on the way home for blessings to my children that I could see more clearly were miracles of kindness from God and from good people around them.
Most of all, I felt gratitude for the evidence of the Atonement working in the lives of those anxious parents and in mine. I had seen hope and the pure love of Christ shining in their faces, even in their terrible trial. And I felt the evidence you can feel if you ask God to reveal to you that the Atonement can allow you to feel hope and love.
We all can make the choice to give thanks in prayer and to ask God for direction to serve others for Him—especially during this time of year when we celebrate the Savior’s birth. God the Father gave His Son, and Jesus Christ gave us the Atonement, the greatest of all gifts and all giving (see D&C 14:7).
Giving thanks in prayer can allow us to see the magnitude of these blessings and all of our other blessings and so receive the gift of a more grateful heart.