Gratitude & Thanksgiving
27 Nov 2016
Last summer, our family went on a road trip back East. I was not feeling well, I went to the doctor the day before we left, and was diagnosed with double ear infections. I still thought we had everything taken care of, and off we went. Because I was not feeling well, Tara did much of the driving, especially on the first day. Somewhere along the way, a semi-trailer blew a tire right next to us. It sounded like an explosion right next to us, but nothing hit us, the truck driver was able to pull off, and we kept going. Sometime in the afternoon of the first day, I was asleep in the passenger seat, when I felt a shaking, and Tara pulling over to the side of the road.
On getting out of the van, we found that one of the rear tires had blown. We were going 80 miles an hour at the time, and the tire was completely shredded. There we were, on the side of the road in the middle of Wyoming, cars and trucks zipping past us going 80, the kids off in the weeds trying to stay away from the van and the road, I was sick, and then we had trouble getting the spare tire off. I called Justin Larsen when I couldn’t get the spare off, he told me what should happen, but the spare was stuck in it’s enclosure, and would not free. I spent at least an hour being frustrated trying to get it freed, which it eventually did after some well placed kicking in frustration, we got the spare on the car, and drove into the next town.
In the next town, there was one garage. That garage had one tire that fit our van. We used it and the spare, because the back tires were shot. Something I failed to check before we left. While we waited, someone 20 miles up the road had a big camping trailer roll over in the wind while they were trying to change a tire.
We eventually got to our stop that night, the next morning I took the van into a tire shop. The front tires were also worn out, we got new tires on the front as well. That day, while driving through Nebraska, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the blessings of the previous day. Grateful that we were protected when the tire blew going as fast as we did, keeping the van on the road without crashing. Grateful that the van didn’t blow over in the wind while changing the tire. Grateful that the auto shop had a tire for us, and that we could get somewhere to get the other tires replaced as well. Grateful that the Lord was watching over us, keeping us safe, protecting us from harm. Any one of those things could have gone differently, but they didn’t.
In the scriptures, we are taught to show our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to our Savior Jesus Christ by thanking them in prayer, in song, in word, and in deed.
Psalms 100:4 says: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”
Alma taught: “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”
In the Doctrine and Covenants, when the Lord teaches about the importance of the Sabbath day, He indicates that the associated blessings of the Sabbath come when we “do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances.”
President Monson and President Hinkley before him have talked often about the need to show our gratitude by giving thanks, both to the people in our lives, and especially to our Heavenly Father and to the Savior.
How is it done? What does an ‘attitude of gratitude’ look like, especially for those that are not inclined that way, either by nature, or because things just don’t seem to be going our way? We may be out of practice. Life can really feel like everything is going wrong sometimes, but if we take the time to search for the hand of the Lord in our lives, we can see ways he is blessing us. Nephi calls these the “tender mercies of the Lord”, and cited it at the beginning of his record as one of the things he wanted to teach us about.
When we look for the hand of the Lord in our lives we will certainly find He has been blessing us. It may be a spirit of peace or comfort at just the right time. It may be a Sunday lesson that seemingly is given just for you. Maybe it is simply the fact that you are here today, and were able to renew your covenants with him. When we look for the hand of the Lord in our lives, we see He is there. We may not recognize it in the moment, like my experience with that van, it may come later as we reflect on it. When we see these tender mercies, we certainly should express our thankfulness for them.
In the Book of Luke, chapter 17, we read of an experience of the Savior:
“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 he met 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.”
All ten lepers were healed. They all benefited from the gift of the Savior. In this passage, it would seem that the one that had showed his gratitude seems to have been given a greater gift.
President Monson said “My brother and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive? Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.”
Brothers and Sisters, what is happening in your life today that you can be grateful for? Have you thanked your Father in Heaven yet? If things don’t seem to be going the way you want, are you looking for small tender mercies of the Lord that you can latch on to and gain strength from? The hymn states:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all. Count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journeys end.
This, brothers and sisters, is the thing. We can certainly be thankful to our Father in Heaven, because he surely is blessing us all the time, whether we recognize it or not. If we can’t figure out what to be thankful for, what we really are grateful for, every Sunday we have the opportunity to reflect on the gift of the Savior’s atonement in our lives, as we take the sacrament, and we can thank our Father in Heaven for it.
I certainly have been very, very blessed in my life. I don’t often recognize it in the moment, usually for me, it is something I have the think about, to reflect on, and the blessings become obvious. I have to actively look for them to find them often times, otherwise I just take them for granted. It may be different for you, but I hope you can see the tender mercies of the Lord in your life, are grateful for them, and are able to thank Heavenly Father for those blessings, whether they are big or small.
Our Father in Heaven loves us, and is involved in our lives. I know he loves me and is involved in my life. I am grateful for that. I know he loves my family and is involved in their lives, and for that I am grateful. I know that our Father in Heaven knows and loves each and every one of you, and is involved in your lives. May we all find the tender mercies of the Lord in our lives, take the time to express our gratefulness for them, big or small, to our Father in Heaven. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.