Are You Anxious About Things? Count Your Blessings

The saints are joyful because they are grateful to God.

James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Healing of the Ten Lepers”
James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Healing of the Ten Lepers” (photo: Public Domain)

For years, I ran a column called Small Success Thursday, where we practiced deliberate gratitude as a means of reframing the week. As part of a large group of Mommy bloggers, we’d recognize all the little things done with great love, all the sacrifices that yielded slow growing but good fruit in the thousands of little errands that fill up the everyday of raising children, working from home and being moms. The weekly list resulted in each of us keeping our eyes open for little moments of joy, of victory over the tedium of constant chores, it made the weeks buoyant. These days, we need that spiritual buoyancy. We need to look through the weeks for the lightness and joy of life that comes in all the little things that make up the day.

Want to feel better in this time when the whole world seems to be shutting down and imploding? Count your blessings.

No really. I’m serious.

Begin a gratitude Rosary, where on each bead, you thank God for something or someone in your life, and by the time you get to the final bead, your spirit will be unfailingly lifted. It isn’t a trick. It isn’t a mere matter of positive thinking. It is a reality. When we focus on all for which we are grateful, we tap into the source of all good, replacing discouragement and despair with joy. We also discover all we’ve failed to notice when caught up in the darkness, worry and despair.

The hallmark of the saints, of true friends of God, is joy. They knew it going to their deaths. They knew it in the midst of great sufferings. If Saint Maximilian Kolbe could sing in an underground prison, and Saint Peter and Saint Paul from their prisons as well, we who are snug in our homes can sing in the face of this time. Pandemic or no pandemic, we can sing of our blessings, our family, the jobs we have, the food on our table, and to the extent we are not sick, the gift of our health. Thanking God for what we have when we have plenty, is easy and easier still to forget. Thanking God for what we have when we recognize the possibility for having less is good for our spiritual lives. It reminds us that all is a gift, and that we ought to be generous because others do not have all we take for granted.

The prospects for being paralyzed by fear demands a spiritual counter response, and gratitude for what we have is the foil for the fear of what we might lose. This sort of exercise works well as a family, because it engages even children in recognizing that we have many blessings, and that all good things come from God. Invite everyone to participate. It may seem Pollyanna, but it is not, because when we count our blessings, we are focusing on the very real reason for our hope — on the source of all good. We are not manufacturing triumph, but we are recognizing that the suffering and fear of this reality, is not all of reality, nor is it the ultimate end of reality. This exercise is an exercise in acknowledging all the small success of a day make for the fullness of joy of the resurrection, a fullness of which we can only partake if we seek it. If we’re not careful, if we’re overcome by sadness or despair, we may not see it. We will not recognize it when Joy walks with us.