“Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’” —C.S. Lewis

Twelve years ago, I lost my wife to breast cancer. It was by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. 

All of us sustain losses. The pandemic has reminded us of this sad truth. I’m sure you’ve lost something, too, whether it’s a loved one, your health, a job, a friendship, or a dream of the future. That’s why I’d like to share a simple tool with you that helped me deal with my loss.  

When I was deeply grieving the loss of my wife, my aunt encouraged me to do a gratitude challenge. To be honest, it was the last thing I wanted to do. But I decided to do it anyway. 

Each day for a week, I wrote down ten new things I was grateful for. Next, I wrote ten sentences explaining why I was grateful for each thing.

For example, I wrote things like: 

  • Eyes. Thank you, Lord, for my eyes because they allow me to see color and the faces of people I love. 
  • Toothbrush. Thank you, Lord, for my toothbrush because it helps my mouth to feel fresh and clean. 
  • Phone. Thank you, Lord, for my phone. It enables me to stay connected with other people during this difficult time. 

As I wrote down my blessings, I also tried to think of what life would be like if any of those things were missing. At first, it was hard for me to identify things I was grateful for. But as the week went on, it became easier. Gratitude is like a muscle. It strengthens with practice. By the end of the week, I had a list of 70 blessings—things I had taken for granted. Of course, I was still deeply grieving my loss, but I found comfort focusing on the blessings I still had.

Gratitude makes us more content. Contentment is good for both our health and our relationships. As one wise person put it: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” That’s why the Bible encourages us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV). Gratitude helped me get through my loss and I know it can help you too. So why not start the gratitude challenge today?

Frank M. Hasel, PhD, is associate director of the Biblical Research Institute. This devotional is an excerpt from his recent book: Living for God: Reclaiming the Joy of Christian Virtue.

Frank M. Hasel, PhD, is associate director of the Biblical Research Institute. This devotional is an excerpt from his recent book: Living for God: Reclaiming the Joy of Christian Virtue.