By Kathy Harris
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. — Meister Eckhart
Everywhere we turn this time of year, we’re reminded to be thankful. Whether it’s a warm and fuzzy television commercial, a not-so-gentle nudge delivered from the pulpit, or a magazine article on the Top Ten Tips for Being Thankful, we’re encouraged to seek gratitude.
Instructions on ‘thankfulness’ might look something like this:
• Make a gratitude list. Or, even better, keep a daily gratitude journal.
• Stop. Reflect. Stay mindful of the simple things in life.
• Connect, or reconnect, with others. It’s no coincidence that we seek the company of family and old friends during the holidays. Revisiting our roots, those things that had the earliest influence on our lives, can provide a unique kind of inspiration.
• Give time or money (or both) to those less fortunate. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Send a grocery store gift card anonymously to a neighbor or a fellow church member who recently lost his or her job. Or, if you really want to touch someone’s life, visit one of those most often forgotten at a local nursing home. (Just the thought of that makes you thankful, doesn’t it?)
Search the worldwide web and you’ll find a lot of similar ideas for getting in touch with your inner-thankfulness. But here’s one you probably won’t see on most lists…
Nothing will make you more thankful than going through tough times.
How could that even be possible? It defies logic, doesn’t it? At least by the world’s standards.
But, as Christians, we know that it’s the trials that point us toward God. It’s usually during the difficult times that we keep our eyes most fixed on Him. And it’s by experiencing regeneration — from the death of self and the submission of the outcome to God — that we emerge stronger on the other side. How can you not be grateful when you’ve emerged victorious (even if not completely unscathed) from your trials?
As writers, we also know this is true. It’s conflict that makes our story compelling. It’s conflict that keeps our readers engaged. And it’s character growth through conflict (what we call a character arc) that propels our story from the first page to the last. It’s the “blessing of conflict” that creates a satisfying end.
As Christian writers, our goal isn’t just to entertain. Our goal is also to inspire and encourage. Let your readers see how conflict has improved your character’s life. Just as our real-life witness through trials can encourage those around us, our character’s journey through conflict can encourage our readers.
And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. — Romans 5:4 NLT
Pass along the lesson of gratitude. Even when it comes through the blessing of conflict. After all, as Christians, we have a lot to be thankful for.