I’ve been in a battle of late; it’s been a battle against discouragement. It started with a setback; or more accurately, what I perceived to be a setback. For me, a setback always begins with reoccurring pain; back and neck pain to be precise. It’s a part of the backdrop to my life, and with any sign of stress it quickly seizes the opportunity to come centre stage and steal the show. It quickly diminishes my strength and capacity to do life well. My Osteopath terms this a “flare-up”; my bodies learned response to added pressure and stress. It’s a reality that discourages me at times.
Part of my trouble is that I am naturally optimistic. I tend to have a hopeful outlook on life, believing that hardship, flare-ups and blips are all common life experiences, and will pass as surely as they have come. However, when the blips become more regular, the hardship lingers longer than anticipated and the flare-ups take time to resolve…this is when discouragement can settle in. My optimistic view is soon covered by the clouds of gloom. I begin to equate the roadblocks and detours of life as indicators of failure. The self protective side of me quietly whispers, “Let’s not be so hopeful next time. I think it’s a sign…you’re in a rut.”
So here lies the challenge to being resilient. It’s not the occasional difficulties that can have us unstuck; it’s the habitual and unrelenting things that do. They will be different for us all, but challenging none-the-less: a sick child, troubled family relationships, ill-health, financial pressures… so many things that colour our daily landscape in darker hues. So to continue to pick yourself up and carry on requires resolve; an important part of being resilient.
While I may not be able to change my circumstances, there is something in my power to change. It’s in my attitude; an attitude of thankfulness. Actively choosing to turn from dwelling on the negative aspects of life and reminding myself of all the things that are good. And yes, once you begin to think about it, there are many things to be thankful for.
Last year I went to a Resilient Kids Conference, and one of the speakers, Hugh van Cuylenburg (founder of the resilienceproject.com.au ) talked about the three things that he believed were key to having good mental health: Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness. What he said about gratitude impacted me the most. Coming away from his talk, I was inspired to be more intentional about being thankful as a family; so I created a thankfulness box.
It had been a traumatic year for our family, so initially thinking of things that we were thankful for, wasn’t easy. However, each night after dinner, as we pondered on the day that had been, we began to see many things we were thankful to God for. When we did, we wrote them down and added them to our box. On New Year’s Eve we gathered together to read over the things we had put in the box and then we prayed about each one. It was a lovely moment of acknowledging all the good things that God had done for us as we ushered in a new year.
A verse from the bible in the book of Habakkuk 3 vs 17-19 has been a great encouragement to me reminding me that I can still be thankful and joyful regardless of my circumstances. It says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
While it may not be easy to maintain a thankful mindset, I am finding that the discipline and practice of choosing thankfulness brings reward and blessing. It enables me to remain resilient in the face of hardship. Most of all, it reminds me where the source of joy can be found. In a gracious God who is the giver of all good things and the sustainer of life. So…what are you thankful for today?
Psalm 106 vs 1 says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”