by Molly Audiss

It seems I am always telling my 8th grade-girls Sunday school class things that I want them to “put this away in the back of your mind. Someday you will need to remember this, and you can bring it back to the front of your mind when you need it.” I said that recently as I was teaching on the story in Luke chapter 17 of the 10 lepers that were healed by Jesus.

“And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Luke 17:11-19

The truth I wanted my girls to remember for the future was something that I had to learn during dark valleys in my own life, and that is simply-

Gratitude is a weapon.

I realize that sounds funny, but it is the truth. Someday, each of those sweet girls will walk through their own valleys. They will know what it is like to feel paralyzed with grief, or pain, hurts, betrayals, and trials. In these times, when they don’t even know which end is up, the way to keep from going under is to cling to gratitude.

Ladies, I would never make light of your struggles. I have not faced the same struggles as you have, I am sure. Each of us gets their own personal, unique dark days. But I know what it is like to cry every night in the shower, so no one in the family could hear my sobs. I have had times of driving to a near by shopping mall, late in the evening, to sit in the empty parking lot and beat on my steering wheel, tears streaming down, yelling to God, “Help, please help!” The struggles are different, but the pain is well-known. My mind was frozen. I had no idea how to be happy again.

No, giving thanks to God does not instantly fix things. It does not take away the problems or the grief. It doesn’t even feel genuine, at first. But I found having times of speaking and writing out gratitudes for things in my life was similar to a life-vest to me. It kept me from drowning. There is something I cannot explain that changes in a person’s mind when they turn their thoughts to thankfulness. I know it works. It is a weapon of spiritual warfare God gives us to do battle against the evil one. Thanksgiving is powerful.

Gratitude can be helpful in the everyday frustrations and annoyances of life, as well. On days when my kids were driving me to the brink, instead of starting World War III with my words (which I have done, also, without good results!), it is so much more useful to get alone for a couple minutes and think of reasons I am grateful for my kids. I could emerge with a new perspective and keep my dignity and my temper.

If you are married, you know there are times when you just wonder, “Who is that man? Is that the guy I fell in love with?” (He has those days, too.) If daily living-raising kids, paying bills, keeping up with the house, making meals, laundry- has brought you to a dry season in your marriage, gratitude is a wonderful weapon. (And a much safer weapon than the one you may want to use on your husband!:) If you find you don’t feel love for him, don’t panic. Every relationship has these times. Instead of seeking for an exit from your relationship, a regular time of gratitude will change the way you see him. Write down 10 things you love about him. Think about things you love about him when you are about to see each other at the end of the day. Gratitude helps transform your mind into a complete new way of seeing your spouse. Try it daily for a month, and you’ll be amazed at how differently you feel.

Gratitude can help any relationship that is struggling- your neighbor, your boss, a relative, a teacher at your child’s school, a coach, even the girl at the cash register or the waitress. Think of things that you are thankful for, and speak them aloud. Hearing yourself say these things will make your mind feel that you do actually believe what you say. It’s a game-changer.

Try gratitude. Be consistent for one month. Every time you feel close to despair on dark days, write down things for which you are grateful. Thank God for those things. Thinking these thoughts will help you keep your sanity on the toughest days. Each time you feel annoyed with a person, stop and think of reasons to be thankful for them. Tell them. Tell God. Use this powerful weapon, and be amazed at the transformation of your mind!