Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And while it is not part of the liturgical calendar, there is certainly a spiritual aspect of a day in which we pause to give thanks for the blessings in our lives. But maybe you look around and don’t see a whole lot to be thankful for. Maybe your health is poor, you have bills piling up, or your relationships are strained. If you need help counting your blessings this Thanksgiving, Gary Zimak is here to help.
“By my nature, I’m the type of guy who isn’t automatically thankful,” he said. “For most of my life I’ve been a complainer. It has been a tool for the past several years that I’ve been learning, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to become thankful for the many gifts that the Lord has given me.”
So what changed his mindset? Gary explained, “A lot of prayer, and watching other people, and wondering, why am I so miserable? I don’t want to be miserable. I want to be joyful. I’m supposed to be a joyful Christian, so what’s wrong? … I really believe this is the Holy Spirit working in me that I started to realize, ‘Wait a minute Gary. You’re being really ungrateful. The Lord is giving you a lot of blessings, and you’re not being thankful.’ And I gradually started to change. I gradually forced myself to list things that I’m thankful for, starting with the fact that I’m able to get out of bed in the morning.”
One of the difficult aspects of gratitude and counting your blessings is that sometimes life really isn’t going your way. Bad things happen, you experience suffering, and it’s hard to see the light in the darkness. But even in those moments, it is possible to recognize your blessings.
Gary shared how he was able to experience gratitude, even when there was plenty to be ungrateful for. He said, “It wasn’t until I started having a close relationship with Jesus, and praying, and looking at His life, looking at the life of the Blessed Mother. And realizing that just because things aren’t going my way doesn’t mean I’m not being blessed by God. ”
“Look at the life of Christ,” Gary pointed out. “I mean, He certainly suffered throughout His life. But He was doing the will of the Father. So it was again that help of the Holy Spirit. … I might not always feel it, but I’m thankful and I tell the Lord all the time, ‘Thank you Lord for the crosses you give me in my life, because they bring me closer to you, and they allow me to share in your mission.’ Again, I don’t have to feel it to say that.”
So when it’s difficult to count your blessings, where can you start? Gary suggested looking at the little things in life. The things we often take for granted can actually be a great starting point for gratitude, because it helps us look at our lives in an entirely different way.
“When I wake up in the morning, I am not guaranteed another day,’ Gary said. “The fact that the Lord gave me another day is something to be thankful for. It goes on from there. So many things that we unintentionally overlook, but things that we should be thankful for.”
“How about indoor plumbing? How about hot water? We’ve had our hot water heater go out on us. We’ve had our heater go out on us. We easily overlooked that, but not anymore. I thank the Lord every day for a roof over my head. A lot of people don’t have that. These little things can easily be overlooked.”
And it doesn’t have to be just material blessings that we are grateful for. There is a host of spiritual blessings that we have received. Faith itself is a gift, and one that we can express gratitude for every day.
“The fact that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us – what a gift!” Gary pointed out. “The fact that I can talk to the God of the universe and He’s going to listen to me. God is available 24 hours a day, and this is the same God that led Abraham, Moses, and Jacob. He’s a pretty important guy, but He always has time for me. What a great blessing!”
Listen to the full conversation below: