Giving thanks isn’t about listing all the good circumstances you’re currently enjoying. Rather, it is intentionally reflecting on your life and the people, opportunities and events that have entered it, and acknowledging those things as divine gifts. So counting our blessing includes counting things as blessings. As we grow, we include things that might not at first glance seem like blessings. Not that we thank God for adverse circumstances, but rather for His gracious work for us in the midst of them.
Eric Demeter puts it well:
Having a heart of gratitude, therefore, is not about looking at the bright side of things. And it’s not even acknowledging that things could be worse. Our thankfulness is never to be based on a set of circumstances. It’s based on a Person. The answer to our pain and suffering isn’t new circumstances but God Himself. Jesus came, not only to suffer for us, but to suffer with us. Isaiah describes Christ as being: “Despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (53:3).
Another author describes how giving thanks is a spiritual discipline:
God does not require us to FEEL thankful; God only asks us to GIVE our thanks. Perhaps this feels contrived or hypocritical to you, but modern psychology often tells victims of abuse or those who suffer from extreme anxiety that if they would only ACT brave, true courage will come. Likewise, we may not FEEL grateful, but giving thanks anyway, as our spiritual discipline, as our reasonable service, is sure to lead to genuine grace.
So how can we count things as blessings? Here are some ways to start I’ve gathered from various sources:
- What are some people, things, opportunities or events that God has gifted you with?
- What are you grateful for about you? Where have you seen God at work in you for which you can thank Him?
- What difficult person or situation has taught you something you needed to know about yourself?