In our last post we alluded to the importance of gratitude. I was my husband's caregiver for four and a half years. His disease was a devastating neurological disease. Seeing my husband's body deteriorate during those years was the most difficult experience I had ever encountered on an emotional, physical, and spiritual level. It was difficult to be thankful in the chaos and drama of family care-giving. Life became so very overwhelming at times. Life as a widow has also involved moments of grief and challenge for me.
One of the things that began to help me in this area as a caregiver was to write down a few things each day for which I was thankful. This simple practice did much to open my eyes to the little wonders and love gifts of God which were still in my life. It is a practice I still carry on today.
I think gratitude has to go even further than writing down a few things for which I am thankful each day, however. It has to be a heart attitude. In the measure I can have this heart attitude in spite of difficult circumstances, there will be joy and peace.
I am presently reading a book by Nancy Leigh De Moss called Choosing Gratitude. In a chapter I recently read she lists eight reasons for a grateful heart in spite of circumstances. One reason is that gratitude is a matter of obedience. It is commanded by God throughout His Word especially in the Psalms and the New Testament Epistles, Gratitude also draws us closer to God. When we long for a greater sense of God's nearness or life's stresses pile up like they can with family care-giving, gratitude to the Lord is the gateway to the Lord's presence.
Gratitude is further the only sure path to peace. Care-giving difficulties can pile up and become overwhelming. Prayer is a good avenue of release, but it must be accompanied with gratitude (Philippians 4:6-7.) When gratitude combines with prayer and we open our eyes to God's blessings and mercies even in the midst of heartaches, peace follows. When we thank God even when we can't understand what He is doing in our lives, there is peace.
Gratitude is also a gauge to our heart. It is often easy to be thankful for the obvious blessings. It is less easy to be thankful for the more difficult and hard to understand blessings. If one is thankful in all things, it shows a heart which believes that God is always faithful and good and can be trusted. Giving thanks in all things is not acquired in a moment. It is the result of many choices to be thankful even in difficult moments.
Gratitude is the will of God. Choosing it is more important than choices we make about any other of life's decisions. All other life decisions pale in comparison to choosing gratitude. Gratitude is proof of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is evidence that we are yielding to His control. Gratitude further reflects Jesus' heart. Even the night before Jesus was put on the cross He showed gratitude to the Heavenly Father in His prayers at the Last Supper. He gratefully and willingly submitted to the Father's will in spite of the horrors of the cross just before Him.
Finally, gratitude prepares us for heaven. Think of all the saints in heaven praising God before His throne. My husband is no longer suffering from his neurological disease, but he is praising God before His throne right now! I too can join in that praise by thanking and praising the Lord now. Life as a family caregiver is often difficult. I know that, because I walked that path. Yet in the measure we thank God in and even for the difficulties peace will follow. Resolve with me to walk that path, dear caregiver.