by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

When life seems filled to the brim with loss, uncertainty and unwanted or unexpected change, it may be difficult to find reason for gratitude, much less joy. And yet the Bible tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances.” (I Thess. 5:18) In all circumstances, you might ask?Recently I came across a blogger who asked the question, “Can we be thankful for the things we don’t want?” Perhaps I would phrase it, “How can we be thankful for the things we don’t want?” or even “Why?”

Country singer, Garth Brooks, once sang, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.” His song suggested that what he prayed for wasn’t what he really needed and God gave him what he needed, not what Garth thought he wanted at the time. Garth eventually realizes God’s wisdom and is grateful.

But what about when we’re coping with the loss of a job, or the end of a marriage, or the demise of our savings? Where is gratitude to be found among disappointment, sorrow and worry? As Thomas Paine wrote, referring to difficulties and hardships, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

And yet I have found the only way out of disappointment, sorry and worry is to count my blessings. No matter how dire my situation has been, there has always been something and someone to be grateful for.

Gratitude has the power to change our view from what we don’t have, to what we do have. And, inevitably, with this more hopeful perspective, we see the value of what is truly important, we expect good, and we appreciate progress. This vantage point leads us to new horizons and opportunities.

So perhaps what we most need in times of trouble is thankfulness.

When I ponder what I’m grateful for, I find myself also answering the question, “What matters most to me?” And it turns out how much money I have in the bank doesn’t make the list. What matters most are the people (and dogs) that I love.

Perhaps this is also why if I were faced with getting out of my house quickly — maybe because of fire or a tornado — besides making sure my family and animals were safe, I would attempt to grab as many photographs as possible. And I would hopefully get my computer, too, since many photos are stored there as well.

What matters most to me are not material possessions but those near and dear, along with the intangibles of experiences, feelings and the living of life itself. My love of photos is about cherishing my memories with loved ones. But even if I didn’t have the photos, the memories would be instilled within me forever.

I admit, however, that when I’ve been faced with extremities and tragedies, gratitude has not often been my first response. No one wants to experience sadness, and I certainly don’t believe that God wants His beloved children to suffer.

But I do believe God gives us everything we need — whether that is courage, strength or a change in direction. And I believe the words of Paul when he said, “…all things work together for good to them that love God…”(Romans 8:28) He did say all things! So eventually, I’ve come to realize that all things include all the things I don’t want, too, and I vow that nothing can stop me from attaining the good that God gives.

Imagine truly being grateful for everything in your life — every life experience and lesson learned — because you know that good is the ultimate outcome. Not that we must welcome and relish things we really don’t want, but we can resolve that good is what God wants and promises for us. We can remain expectant of God’s plan for good. And we can be confident that God’s plan for us is better than what we would design.

Jesus said, “No one can rob you of joy.” (John 16:22) I say no one can rob you of gratitude either. Gratitude enables you to make every day a happy and good day. Fill your mind with everything you’re thankful for and see how much better your world is right now. I suspect you have more to be thankful for than you realize. I always do!