Keeping A Gratitude Journal

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Some years ago Dr. Billy Graham was a guest on Oprah. I will never forget his answer to her question, “What are you most thankful for?”

He said, “Salvation given to us in Jesus Christ . . . and the way you have made people all over this country aware of the power of being grateful.”

I loved that he took advantage of the platform to share the core of the gospel message, but also that he honored Oprah for making a difference in the culture by stressing gratitude the way she has. Millions of people have discovered the power of keeping a gratitude journal because of Oprah’s testimony of how it impacted her life.

There’s a difference between a grateful thought popping into our heads, even if we turn it into a prayer of gratitude, and the intentionality and physicality of daily writing down three things from that day for which we are grateful. There’s something about writing with pen and ink on paper that carves the thoughts into our brains. (See my blog post Pen > ‘Puter)

There’s also something about recording our gratitude that changes the way we think. We become more aware of the ways in which God blesses us with what I call His “hugs and kisses” throughout the day. Instead of taking for granted the fact that the traffic lights were all synced up to allow us to sail through green lights all the way to our destination, we say, “Oh, thank You, Lord!” light after light, our sense of wonder and appreciation enlarging with each intersection. When the rain starts literally the second after we climb into the car and slam the door shut, we say, “Oh Lord!! Bless You!” instead of saying, “Wow, that was lucky.” When we wake up in the morning and realize we didn’t have to get up and use the restroom, we see it as the blessing and gift that it is rather than taking it for granted.

I always suggest keeping a gratitude journal for those battling depression. If they are especially depressed, I suggest writing down ten things instead of three or five. When we are deep in the weeds of despair and hopelessness, it’s easy to believe the lie that nobody cares, including God. But even those immersed in the mire of darkness can still find things to be grateful for: any body part that works, any body part that doesn’t hurt, heating or air conditioning, a bed to sleep in, access to clean water to drink and bathe in, being surrounded by people who speak the same language, internet access, a car, family members who still love them, a job, their memory, the ability to read . . . the list goes on and on, if they will pay attention. (Let me take a moment to point you to an excellent article on Bible.org by my dear friend Ann Golding: “Helping a Friend Through the Darkness of Depression.”

Several years ago, Ann Voskamp taught more millions of people to keep a gratitude journal in her book One Thousand Gifts. She explained that everything that God allows to happen to us is filtered through His love and grace, so even if it’s horrible and painful, it is transformed into a gift for which we can say “Thank You.”

One of my pastors regularly posts to Instagram a picture of the gifts he’s grateful for, hashtagged with a number. Having started at #1000, he’s at #538 today. Not surprisingly, JP [@jpokluda] is one of the most joy-filled people you’ll ever meet. He lives immersed in always-conscious gratitude that overflows into joy.

It would be reasonable for you to wonder about MY gratitude journal, right?

Well, I kept one many years ago when I first learned about God’s command to give thanks not only IN everything, (1 Thessalonians 5:18) but FOR everything (Ephesians 5:20). And an interesting thing happened: developing and maintaining an attitude of gratitude become a way of life for me, like breathing. Recently I realized that my “thank Yous” outnumber my “please” prayers by about a 9-to-1 margin. I guess the discipline of keeping a gratitude journal became a part of who I am.

And I’m good with that. :::smile:::

 

This blog post originally appeared at
blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/keeping_a_gratitude_journal on June 27, 2017.

Sue Bohlin

Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 35 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women’s Connections), and serves on the board and as a small group leader of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women’s Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to Bible.org’s Engage Blog. In addition to being a professional calligrapher, she is the wife of Probe’s Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.

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Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

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4 Comments
  1. Jo Wilmer 4 months ago

    Oprah? She is responsible for turning many away from the truth of the Gospel.

    • Sue Bohlin Author
      Sue Bohlin 4 months ago

      True, but that doesn’t diminish the wonderful thing God did in making it possible for Billy Graham to make this powerful statement to millions of listening people!

      Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  2. Mark 3 months ago

    Teaching people to be “grateful” to something other than the true God is not a good thing. It’s not something to praise. We are not better as a nation because a bunch of people are more “grateful” to some unnamed “higher power” or to Buddha or to a crystal or whatever.

    Nor is it a good thing to give a platform to a man who denies that salvation is through Christ alone, as Billy Graham does. A counterfeit is often more damaging than an open opponent.

    If you are unaware of his heretical views on the gospel, which are easily verified, you should not be presenting yourself as a teacher of anyone.

    • Sue Bohlin Author
      Sue Bohlin 3 months ago

      Hi Mark,

      My blog post on gratitude was making the point that we should be grateful FOR the blessings of God, not grateful TO anyone or anything except the giver of these blessings. The object of our gratitude is the Lord Himself.

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