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No matter how difficult life becomes, thankfulness is always the best option.

God impressed upon my heart in late 2021 my focus for 2022: gratitude and grace.

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions several years ago and replaced them with goals.  However, the goals I made were about the same each year, so the practice didn’t seem beneficial. I was ready to tackle something different.

Gratitude and grace have always been a challenge for me. Centering my thoughts on these two areas this year has resulted in improvement, but I could definitely grow more.

The pandemic serves as a major stealer of gratitude. How can I become thankful when I am worried about getting sick from COVID or battling pandemic effects such as sky-high food and fuel prices and supply shortages? Where can I find gratitude when a spirit of fear casts its shadow all around me?

It seems easier to grumble and complain than to express thanks to the Lord. I read somewhere this analogy: “If you are so fixed on getting two potatoes, you won’t be happy with the one potato you already have.” That struck me like an arrow hitting a bull’s eye.

My thankfulness revolves around small and big things. I praise God that I get out of bed every morning on my own even though I face numerous health challenges. Thanks flow when my temperamental garage door works. Thanks happen when my dishwasher completes the job, for without it I would have to spend a chunk of time washing dishes with only one largely functional hand.

Stepping outside, I hear the sweet sounds of birds chirping. I see beautiful flowers, plants, trees, many different colors, flat and hilly ground, and various animals. I experience the sound of thunder, see blue skies, and at night view the stars. Thank you, Lord.

And what about my relationship with the Lord? He loves me. He saved me. He lives inside me through the Holy Spirit. He forgives all my sins. I can fellowship with him through Bible reading and prayer. He knows all about me. He cares. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

No matter how difficult life becomes, thankfulness is always the best option. I remind myself of another form of thankfulness: “Things could always be worse.”

As difficult as gratitude may be sometimes, grace seems to be an even larger problem for me. I grew up in a Christian Reformed church that seemed to stress God’s judgment rather than his grace. Its focus on performance implied people needed to earn God’s favor. Where is the grace in that scenario? Therefore, I reasoned, if God doesn’t give grace (his forgiveness), then how can I forgive myself? And if I struggle with forgiving myself, how can I forgive others?

This grace journey requires lots of self-talk. I remind myself about God’s truth. God loves me. I am his child. He is for me. He wants the best for me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He cheers for me. I am freed from proving myself to him. When I am secure in God, I can lower my ultra-high expectations and give myself grace. My positive self-talk becomes something like, “Paul, even though you may have messed up this time, you are only human, and you will do better next time. You’ve got this.”

I invite you to join me on this road to gratitude and grace. If you have difficulties, as I did, begin by thanking the Lord for small things. Let your gratitude flow. If grace presents problems, remind yourself that God created you as a special person with worth.

Having a proper view of gratitude and grace will aid not only us but others too.

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