Jay Lowder: COVID had me in its grip, my daughter was hospitalized and more – why am I still thankful?

With everything that has been taken and stripped away this year, dedicating a day to thankfulness seems like a cruel joke

We’ve missed out on so much in 2020 that it’s possible to lose sight of the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving. With everything that has been taken and stripped away this year, dedicating a day to thankfulness seems like a cruel joke.

My family has been recently plagued by serious sickness. I just ended a brutal battle with COVID-19 while my daughter was hospitalized due to an ongoing battle with a rare autoimmune disease called Stills, and, to top it all off, a close family member was placed in hospice, likely at the end of her life.

Because of all this, like many, I can confirm that the holidays have not been high on my priority list. But it is critical to maintain a posture of gratitude as we enter the holiday season. We don’t know if the staple holiday celebrations like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or gathering with family in the traditional way will still take place, but gratitude is never canceled.

Putting thankfulness into practice starting now could actually change the trajectory of how we experience the holidays this year. Even though functions and traditions may be missing, we can still create meaningful memories. But first, we have to cultivate the right mindset.

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Let’s be real: we don’t have time to wait for gratitude to come to us. We’ll have to work for it in order to experience it. As Thanksgiving arrives, I challenge you to come back to these three truths on the hardest days when it seems like there is nothing for which to be thankful.

Joy is contagious, so you might try sending this along to a loved one to help spur one another on in gratitude.

1. We Are Privileged to be in the Best Nation on Earth

This reality was realized for many Americans in a new way this year as we watched how the coronavirus impacted various nations around the world. Although we did not escape its effects and many of us were personally impacted by its consequences, the truth is that we are still in the most prosperous country, and that’s not something everyone can say.

We maintain freedoms, privileges and opportunities that millions of people only dream of attaining.

Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7: Sometimes God Introduces Himself Outside the Church Walls.”

Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7: Sometimes God Introduces Himself Outside the Church Walls.”

Some of us lost our jobs, our security or our loved ones, but many more individuals in other countries lost that and more, as they have little to no freedom to enjoy even when the pandemic lifts.

I know that when I was a suicidal 21-year-old, all I wanted was a quick way out of my pain. But decades later, I can confirm that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is highly effective at treating many troubles.

Not merely on Thanksgiving but every day, we can be grateful for the privilege of living in the freest nation on earth. 

2. Gratitude Improves our Lives

Thankfulness isn’t just about trying to achieve some kind of normalcy. Science shows us the benefits of gratitude, especially during times of extreme difficulty.

You would be surprised how much a small gesture can go in making someone’s day. Expressing our gratitude to and for others is an effective way to get our minds off what we don’t have and back toward all that we have to be grateful for.

According to Health Harvard, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Additional research has shown that gratitude does more than make us happy; it can directly improve our relationships, ease our depression and lessen the urge to cope with sadness and loneliness in unhealthy ways.

Everyone is facing more difficulties than normal, and with no definite end in sight to certain struggles, it’s tempting to turn to cheap and destructive thrills. But as with all good things, turning our lives around requires consistent work and can’t be cured with band-aids or fast-acting means of relief.

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I know that when I was a suicidal 21-year-old, all I wanted was a quick way out of my pain. But decades later, I can confirm that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is highly effective at treating many troubles.

3. Focusing on Others Makes Us Feel Better

Giving back to others is not about making ourselves feel better about what we have but about making a positive impact on the life of someone else. When we are generous with our tangible and intangible resources, our blessings create more blessings.

You would be surprised how much a small gesture can go in making someone’s day. Expressing our gratitude to and for others is an effective way to get our minds off what we don’t have and back toward all that we have to be grateful for.

Believe me, I understand that, especially for those experiencing mental health struggles, putting energy into gratitude can feel like a large ask.

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During a year like 2020 when so much has been lost, it can be difficult to contemplate what has been gained. Especially, for those who have lost loved ones, jobs, finances and health.

Initially, thankfulness may be hard to implement, but the best things in life require our effort and commitment. Making a point to remember these truths and practice gratitude can be the difference between a bleak holiday season and a time we will remember for years to come.

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