Have you ever found yourself forgetting the places where God has worked in your life — places where he answered prayers, healed you, or gave you clarity?
Just a few months ago, I experienced a big healing at a retreat and made the decision to thank God every time I was reminded of it. Recently, though, I found myself drawn back into the hurt of that wound and, while sitting in the hurt, realized I had forgotten about the healing God had given and my resolution to thank him.
I immediately turned to God in thanksgiving for the healing I had received and the answer I had been given in prayer, and almost instantly my peace was restored. It’s not that God was rewarding my faithfulness to the promise I made, but that I was becoming reordered in that moment toward him and his goodness. I was being changed once again, and my spirit experienced the peace of that right order.
Want more Radiant? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!
In the life of faith, gratitude is such an important part of our relationship with God that the Catechism designates “thanksgiving” as one of the main forms of prayer. It’s always beautiful to see where secular ideas and the Faith end up circling back to one another, and the area of gratitude is one of these places.
I was recently listening to a secular podcast about women’s health, and when asked what women can do to try to bring balance back to their hormones and bodies, the interviewee said to “have gratitude.”
She, a specialist in women’s health, recognized that women are deeply affected by their mood, stress and overall happiness, among other factors. For this reason, having joy and cultivating gratitude are two ingredients to help develop a healthier overall experience for women, especially those facing autoimmunity and hormone imbalance.
Rightly ordering our bodies to receive God’s good gifts with gratitude disposes us, both physically and spiritually, to the healing he wants for us.
We probably know the story of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus in Luke. Only one of them, a Samaritan at that, made the decision to find Jesus, worship him and thank him for the healing he received. Because of this, not only were the man’s physical ailments healed but presumably his spiritual ones as well when Jesus said, “… your faith has saved you” (Lk 17:19). It was this man’s faith, expressed in praise and gratitude, that led to his complete healing.
There are many ways we can concretize our gratitude and make it simpler for us to see where and how God is working so that we can remember to thank him and can return to those consolations.
When I was just learning to pray, I remember seeing that my Christian friends always had two items for their prayer times — their Bible and a journal. The journal had many benefits: being able to express prayer concretely in writing, being able to process through what one is praying about, having a task that helps motivate one to make prayer happen.
But one of the greatest benefits of journaling for me was having a place to come back to and remember all of the little and great ways that God had spoken, answered prayers and brought wholeness to what I was experiencing. I can now look back and see what he was doing in my heart at the time and can even recognize how he is now bringing to fulfillment something I struggled with years ago.
While motherhood has made my journaling ebb and flow (I think a third hand would have been nice for us mothers), I still try to write down moments of grace somewhere, whether in a notebook or in the notes app on my phone. That way, I always have these proofs of God’s love in my life to come back to.
I have been chatting with three of my closest friends almost every two weeks for two years. We have shared our journeys with each other, the highs and the lows, and have accompanied one another from afar.
It’s been so fun to see how God has worked in each other’s lives and even cooler to be able to remind one another of the obvious grace at work in each other’s stories. We recall past struggles in light of current joys. We watch God answer desperate pleas weeks, months, even years later. We sit with one another in wonder and hope for what is to come.
Having those around you that you can share your life with, and who can in turn hold you accountable to your hopes, fears and prayers, is an amazing way to continuously see God at work and to be able to continuously come back to him.
One of my best friends introduced me to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast “The Next Right Thing.” The general gist is that in discerning our calls in life and God’s plan for us, we are asked simply to take the next right step.
Emily has a great method for reflection, as well. She sits down at the end of every season and year to look back on what has happened, what has worked and what hasn’t, and what she can bring forward with her from these reflections.
We, too, can make time to ask ourselves what has happened and where God has worked in order to see what he is doing more clearly.
Ask yourself: What has God done in your life? How has he written your story uniquely for you? Where has he answered your prayers and given you consolations? Where have you found yourself despairing but the Lord brought you through it or sustained you in it? Where are you currently suffering, and what do you hope for from God?
Spend some time revisiting those consolations and open ended places in your life. It might surprise you to see forgotten answered prayers, changing desires and expectations, and your own growth.
As you begin reflecting, remember the witness of the holy women who have come before us and given us an example of how to live in thanksgiving of what God has done — people like Miriam, Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary. The Magnificat is a particularly beautiful example of thanksgiving and recognition of God’s goodness.
God’s goodness is never ceasing. It can sometimes be hard to see in a world where evil and suffering are often on display. Because of this, it’s important that we turn our gaze to what God has done and hold tightly to those truths in our own lives so that we can experience the fullness of life he wants for us and the healing he desires.