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“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”
—Rabbi Harold Kushner
Most of us would agree that a blessing is something fortunate that has happened to us for which we are thankful. We think of them in the moment as a relief from pressure, something unexpected that reduces stress or makes us feel good.
I have discovered, however, that many times blessings come disguised and are only realized later. We are required to make tough choices within the challenges we face. Making those tough choices has taught me to think beyond the moment. This was especially true when I was creating a new life for myself after the death of my husband. I knew I not only could survive, but I could use my skills to rebuild a meaningful life.
There are blessings within our losses, but often we need to deliberately search for them. Is it worth the effort? I think so, because we gain a new depth of gratefulness, strength and confidence in the process.
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
Blessings are gifts that enable us to see beyond the pain and see hope in the worst of circumstances. Blessings ignite our energy; they awaken our passions and resolve. They give us a renewed desire to go beyond working through the tangles of life. They give us a time-out, a breathing space and relief from the immediate troubles of the day.
“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Counting your blessings
To “count your blessings” is not some frivolous philosophy, ideology or precept.
- It can transform the ordinary and commonplace, putting a different “spin” on what you are experiencing.
- It can give you a different perspective to an otherwise dark outcome, offering a way out or through, giving you more understanding, depth and meaning.
- It becomes the paintbrush that paints rays from the sun shining through the dark clouds.
- It captures that moment of hope and faith and transforms the world around you.
We are surrounded by blessings every day. Recognizing them, however, often requires thoughtful reflection.
Blessings let us know we are not alone – there is a God who has not only created this incredible world but continues to maintain it. We are not alone in our tragedies, challenges or adversities – He is with us all the way.
I am thankful for being alive. Yet, being alive is something we take for granted until we are faced with death. For someone who has dealt with cancer, watched a child struggle to live, or have missed a tragedy by seconds, being alive has a depth of meaning that most of us seldom think about. Modern medicine has enabled me to walk, replacing two hips and fusing a back. Blessings are there in all of it.
“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.”
Becoming a widow was painful. But the unexpected blessing has been that I have been able to devote my time and energy to sharing my training and life experiences through my writing and speaking. I have met some wonderful people who have become good friends. I have seen firsthand what motivation and inspiration can do against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Do I miss the life I had? Of course. But I also have created a new one that holds joy, happiness and contentment.
How would you describe your life? What are you thankful for?
Is life just one set of problems after another without any pleasure mixed in-between? Or is there more meaning to your life because of the troubles and hardships you have been given?
Perhaps your thankfulness is deeper than most of us because you just avoided a tragedy, learned how to live with a life-defying illness or survived a loss impossible to define. For those of you who have overcome so much, and remain thankful, we can learn from you.
It is easy to focus on all the things that go wrong and continue to focus on our misfortunes. We are rewarded at first by not having to do the work to overcome. But it is at a deep cost – a cost of creating and building a new meaningful life. We look at problems as intrusions instead of challenges to live more productively and become happy. In comparing ourselves to others, we only see what we don’t have and fail to see all the things we do have. But when we change our focus, our lives will take on a whole new dimension.
During this week, begin writing down the things you are thankful for – those blessings you hadn’t acknowledged. You will be blessed in doing the exercise.
We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.