Test Practicing Gratitude
By Anna Eckelbarger Salas
I’m over it! This is my sentiment more often than I would like to admit after an especially busy or challenging week. Ministry is hard. Working with parents and students is hard. Sleeping on church floors is—literally—hard.
Ministry can leave me feeling tapped out and empty at the end of the week. This is true both physically and spiritually. Often I may get so busy planning events and preparing to teach that I don’t invest very much time in my own spirituality.
I may get so busy planning events and preparing to teach that I don’t invest very much time in my own spirituality.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 tells us that we should “Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages.” (CEB)
While I read scripture and pray, I don’t always challenge myself like I should. Before I entered ministry, I was often incorporating spiritual practices like fasting into my life but now with an infant at home and a busy ministry I can’t manage it all anymore.
But maybe this is why I get worn down so quickly. It is easy to focus all of my time and energy on the frustrations of my life and ministry that I end up feeling drained and bare.
Giving thanks to God daily helps to focus our vision and restore our joy.
The Holy Spirit is moving in the world and taking inventory of our blessings is an amazing way to pay attention to the Spirit’s movements around us. In fact, one of the best ways to take care of ourselves is to find ways to be more grateful and to continually express gratitude in our lives.
Research proves that gratitude helps to improve our mental and physical health. From better sleep and fewer aches and pains to less aggression, better relationships and more empathy, being thankful for our blessings changes us in amazing and beneficial ways. I also believe that it can be a spiritual practice. Giving thanks to God daily helps to focus our vision and restore our joy.
I don’t know about you but I could use more joy in my life all of the time. And it doesn’t take much to start paying attention. Awesome things happen daily, even in the midst of terrible circumstances and difficult situations. We just need to see them.
So, take some time at stoplights in your car to give thanks. Keep a physical journal of amazing things that have happened during the day that you can go back and look at when you are having a tough time. Create special times of day like first thing in the morning or before bed to list some things for which you are grateful.
Create special times of day... to list some things for which you are grateful.
In this time of Thanksgiving, make a commitment to living a thankful life. Promise yourself or someone close to you that you will incorporate one intentional, ongoing practice of gratitude into your life this year. Give it a try and see how God can work on and in you!
Anna Eckelbarger Salas is the Minister to Youth and Children at Wesley United Methodist Church of Eugene Oregon.