It’s eight o’clock on a Saturday evening when the phone rings. “Hey, Jim! How’s it going!”
“Dude, what’s the matter? What’s going on? Are Sylvia and the kids okay?”
“No, they’re fine. It’s just—I didn’t know who else to call.”
“Hey, whatever it is, we’ll figure it out. Just take a breath and tell me what’s going on.”
“Right. So, remember when my new phone blew up? Two weeks ago I got a check for almost seven hundred bucks.”
“Okay, that’s cool. So—what’s the problem?”
“Well, then last week my great aunt died. The lawyer said she left me twelve thousand dollars.”
“Wow, that’s gotta be amazing! But, I’m confused. Why on earth are you so bummed out?”
Sometimes in life we can get stuck. I call it being “Stuck in the Soup”.
Many of us know what it’s like to get Stuck when things are going badly. But we can also get Stuck when things are going really, really well.
Vulnerable moments have a nasty way of surprising us without notice. And it’s incredible how we can find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed by fear, worry,
depression, anxiety, or stress. Maybe we are aware of how we got dragged down. Maybe we have no idea. Perhaps it has happened over and over again. Perhaps this is the first time, and you have no idea how to handle it.
Either way, it can be a terrible-awful place to live. Even worse, sometimes it feels like we just Can’t. Get. Out.
To be clear (and before we continue), there’s a big difference between clinical depression and being Stuck in the Soup. If you need to seek professional help, do so. Getting help for our emotional and mental brokenness is far more important than worrying about the opinions of the people around us. Having been there myself, I understand and value the diagnosis and treatment that a qualified professional can provide.
But some of the time, I just get Stuck in the Soup.
Over the years I have attempted all sorts of ways to get out of the Soup: Work more. Play more. Pray more. Read self-help books. Read scripture. Develop a positive mental attitude. Fake it ’til you make it. Pray even harder.
The problem is, those things are a lot like playing darts with spaghetti. You might get lucky, but don’t count on it.
There is one thing, though, that has worked for me time and time again. Something that has consistently gotten me UnStuck, out of the Soup, and back onto solid ground.
Being thankful and grateful and appreciative seems to pull me out, every time. It’s almost like the old song “Count Your Blessings” had it right all along.
Now this is important: Thinking about gratitude will do nothing for you. Studying gratitude won’t make a bit of difference in your life. The thing that will actually get you UnStuck is SHOWING gratitude.
Sure, we could get philosophical about it or try to understand the research behind it. But it’s like learning to draw. No matter what you think about drawing, or how much you study drawing, the only way you can learn to draw is to grab a pencil and start dragging it across paper.
With that in mind, here are three simple and practical ideas to help you show more gratitude in your life.
1. PAY ATTENTION.
Let’s be honest. Gratitude is not automatic. Nor is recognizing what we have to be grateful FOR. It has to be cultivated in our lives. And the way we start is by looking for the good things going on around us and in our lives. Perhaps that’s fitting, since many of us refer to this as hunting season already!
Fun Fact: It may take concentrated effort to track down those first few things to be thankful for. But as you continue it builds momentum, making it easier to name additional items. And once you really get going you’ll become aware of how much goodness there is in our lives, and realize how much we take for
2. EXPRESS APPRECIATION.
When someone does something nice, or helpful, or thoughtful for you, thank them. And while we’re at it, let’s include a little more YOU in the thanks, shall we? “Thanks” is impersonal and non-specific, and is best used to acknowledge someone who is just doing their job. Like the delivery guy, or the customer service representative handling your phone call.
When someone we know does something that is beneficial to us, we need to say “Thank YOU”. And if you really want to rack up bonus points, add their name. “Thank you, James” is a little way to make a big impact on someone else, while MULTIPLYING the conscious effort you’re making to get Unstuck.
While you’re at it, find something about one person to compliment each day. And make it specific. “Thanks for the meal” earns you a brass thumb tack. “I don’t know how you do it, but that casserole you made tonight tasted amazing!” gets a gold star.
And for those of you keeping score at home, it’s great to compliment or thank someone personally. It’s better to praise them in front of others. It’s great to send someone a text or an email. It’s better to write it down in a card or note. Why? Because you give credibility to both of you by uplifting someone publicly. As for writing things down, many people actually keep those notes and cards and read them again for a boost when they’re having a bad day themselves.
3. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.
“Name them one by one”, as the song goes. There is nothing more effective in getting me unstuck than making a list of the things I’m grateful for. Yes, an actual pen and paper list. And what works best for me is to tape it to the mirror, or the refrigerator—somewhere that I’ll see it each day and be inspired to fill in another line or two.
“And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” This is how the chorus concludes, and it’s a reminder from James 1:17 that God is, in fact, the giver of every good gift we receive. Creating a list and writing down the things we are grateful for is a tangible reminder of the many blessings God give to us that we can all-too-easily overlook.
Perhaps you’ve already realized the thread woven through these three ideas: The first is focused on you, the second is focused on others, and the third is focused on God. Look inward to see things to be thankful for. Look outward and consider the people you show appreciation to. And look upward to the Author of all good gifts, who deserves our gratitude because of His great love for each of us.
As I wrap this up, I want you to pause for a moment and think. And here’s the thing: If you just consider this a nice article, a good read (High Five, Pastor Steve!) nothing’s gonna change. And sooner or later you’ll find yourself Stuck in the Soup all over again.
Face it. Thanksgiving is on deck, followed by Christmas and New Year’s. There will be parties, and family gatherings, and get togethers of all kinds. Some of us will just Cowboy Up! and get through all this end-of-year stuff by putting on our hats and sweaters, and smiling the smiles and laughing the laughs. And we KNOW we can muddle through to January because we’ve done it before.
But how would you like this year to be different? What would it mean to you, to your family, to those people around you if you were actually to get UnStuck this year? How would it transform your end-of-year?
Do this today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And see what a difference it makes in your life.
- Look for something to be thankful for. Track it, ferret it out, hunt it down. It may take some work, but that’s okay. It’s worth doing.
- Pick someone to say “Thank You” to, or give a compliment to. Dig a little deeper and explain to them why you noticed.
- Write down at least one thing on your list/journal/notes app and specifically thank God for it.
Let’s don’t fail to be grateful. For our sake and for the sake of those around us. When we enter into true gratitude and recognize all the goodness in our lives, and that it comes directly from God—then we can get UnStuck and actually stay UnStuck.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17