The easiest things in the world to forget — or lose track of altogether — are our blessings. Now and again we take them out and dust them off, or peer curiously, as through a telescope, at the things we "have," the things we know that are good in our lives.
We are busy and distracted, and we harbor a sense of discontent concerning so many elements and conditions that overshadows the advantages and blessings we enjoy — making them appear inadequate and woefully incomplete.
In our world it is all too easy for our expectations to continually outdistance what is already here.
Paul, speaking to the Philippians, taught: "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). And we are also admonished that nothing displeases our Father in Heaven more than an ungrateful heart.
Why? What real difference can a grateful attitude make?
John Henry Jowett put it pretty clearly: "Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. . . faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road."
Precisely. If we open our hearts, our Heavenly Father can pour his blessings inside. He can enhance, illuminate, strengthen every moment, every experience, every challenge that comes our way.
God has promised he will give us a new heart — and he wants our hearts — he wants us to unburden our joys and our heartaches to him, that he might rejoice with us, grieve with us, heal us and exalt us.
"Happiness is itself a kind of gratitude," wrote Joseph Wood Krutch. Gratitude alters all things because it alters how they appear to us. We can feel calm and hopeful, despite what we or those we love might be suffering; we can feel joy in the midst of loss and frustration. Gratitude makes everything beautiful.
As Henry Miller expressed it: "The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnicient world in itself."
As gratitude blooms in our spirits like an ever-unfolding flower, we see more and more around us to be grateful for. As we soar — as our weaknesses become strengths, and appear astonishing to us — we can lift our heads in the midst of our worst trials and bless the Lord.
We can even become as Brigham Young who saw it this way: "Do I acknowledge the hand of the Lord in persecution Yes, I do. It is one of the greatest blessings that could be conferred upon the people of the Lord . . . As to trials, why bless your hearts, the man or woman who enjoys the spirit of our religion has no trials" (Journal of Discourses: Brigham Young, Vol. 2, p. 7).
And, oh, the marvel of possessing something we cherish, something we take delight in, because we have an awareness of it deep within. Think of the small things that are in danger of being dismissed as insignificant and trite: sunsets, the first snowfall, warm spring air on your uplifted face, a tidy, efficient washing machine that cleans our clothes for us while we do other things — walking, seeing, eating, laughing, touching. The list is endless, but it is wondrous, it is filled with daily miracles that both humble and exalt us.
"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude," wrote Denis Waitley.
The Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants assures us that when we abound in thankfulness, we "shall be made glorious, and the things of this earth shall be added unto him — even an hundred fold, yea, more" (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19).
Let us come before the Lord's presence with thanksgiving, as the Psalmist said — living so that the whisper of his voice can be heard like a melody of glorious gladness to our listening hearts.
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children and blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com.