In my twenties, I began seeking guidance not only in prayer, but also through the word of God, which I believe has transformed my perspective on life and guided the way I live now. We all know it can take Catholics a little while before they truly read and meditate on the Bible. Through reading the Bible, I noticed that I was less reactive, more humble and more thankful during life experiences. Over the years, God’s guidance has led me to places I never imagined. I am grateful for my adventures in other countries, for living in different states in the United States, and for experiencing situations that have challenged my current understanding of the world, people, and myself. I am not saying this to boast about my life, I am saying this because those experiences have propelled me into a deeper understanding of life, which has allowed me to live in greater peace. I know that I am not wise. I know there is much more for me to learn, and I look forward to continuing to learn every day. However, I occasionally have the urge to say to God, “Please no more lessons today,” when I am in a season that requires me to be in a valley. I am human, and clearly I do not always stay in spiritual bliss. Nevertheless, I continue to strive to be grateful for the valley. More importantly, I have learned to be grateful in the valley in order to reach my highest spiritual potential at that moment.
My gratefulness in the valley is rooted in knowing that there is no temptation that can overtake or entice me that is unusual to any other human being, and this experience of temptation is part of life. I learned this from reading 1 Corinthians 10, while lying in bed, tempted by its warmth to rest for just fifteen more minutes before taking a shower. In moments of temptation, I learned that the most important thing I can do, is to remind myself that God is faithful, God’s word is truthful, and God is compassionate and trustworthy. Therefore, I know in my soul that all things are working for my good, and that staying in my soul space is the only way I will get through any temptation or valley with gratitude. From this soul space, I can freely give thanks to God. I thank God for giving me impossible tasks, because by working towards the impossible, fear becomes an illusion, and I can see that I am stronger and smarter than I once believed. Moreover, when asked to complete an impossible task, I know that I already possess everything I need to complete it, and what I lack will provided at the appointed time due to God’s command.
I applied this lesson, without knowing it at the time, during my first job after graduate school. In addition to completing routine tasks, my supervisor asked me to review over 2,000 records in two weeks, to determine if a single record matched with another record or multiple records in our state public health HIV database. This was an impossible request. I completed this assignment, by first, asking God for assistance, then, focusing on one step at a time, and finally, listening to Beyoncé with the volume on high. I hummed lyrics like, “I woke up like this!” and worked through my datasets.
Due to my efforts as well as my colleagues’ efforts, for the first time, the health department received federal recognition for data quality related to matching. The Bible is full of stories about the impossible becoming possible. Those stories and God’s word gave me hope then, and continue to give me hope now, that I can do the impossible in my everyday life. Now, when I am working towards bigger dreams and more difficult tasks, I remind myself of the scripture in Proverbs.
“Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him], and your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance].” – Proverbs 16:23 AMP
In addition to reading the Bible, my yoga practice, including meditation is another reason why I am living more in gratitude. Through yoga and meditation I am more mindful of when my mind begins to wonder into negative or discouraging self-talk. I use my breath to let go of all of my thoughts, thereby making space to surrender into the present moment. Our breath has the ability to guide our minds away for our constant inner dialogue to our still consciousness. However, I believe that reading the Bible and studying the messages from God have had a more profound impact on my ability to consistently live in gratitude. Reading the Bible has served as my foundation for living a life in gratitude.
Through reading God’s word, I am able to accept the spiritual truth that I will never know God’s entire vision for my life. This understanding is why I can now laugh, in loving kindness, at myself for believing that if I worked hard, then I would achieve my vision. I know with certainty that everything in life is spiritual and the only control we have is the choice to listen. In order to achieve our dreams, we have to listen to God speaking to us, providing us with guidance on our journey. When we listen to God, it is easier to thank God for our life experiences because we know who is in control, and sometimes we are provided with insight explaining why we are experiencing the current situation. Recently, I was at a crossroad in my life, and I had a dream that provided me with a clear direction to move forward. God speaks to use in many ways, through nature, other people, whispers in our hearts, dreams, and the Bible.
Alternatively, if we choose not to listen nor heed to the guidance provided, then we find ourselves stuck or walking in circles. I also know what it feels like to be lost. During moments when I feel disorganized, lost, or disheartened, I dedicate more time to reading the Bible, to prayer, and to meditation. This is the only way I have found guidance to move forward. Life has taught me that when I am lost and unsure of what to do, and I prematurely move before I receive guidance, I am only wasting energy because I do not make forward progress. This is because I am the co-creator of my life, not the creator. The Gospel of John explains this well.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” – John 15: 5-6 NLT
My human experience is teaching me to be soft and more loving every day. When I forgive myself for making mistakes, I am forgiving others as well, and I am more thankful for other people. When I love myself flaws and all, I love others regardless of their flaws. As a spiritual seeker, I listen to the SuperSoul podcast as often as possible. Recently, I was feeling a little discouraged and exhausted from pursuing my purpose and sought guidance from God through prayer, but I heard nothing; so I decided to take my mind off of my emotions and listen to a SuperSoul podcast.
As God would have it, I received direct guidance for how to live a life in gratitude from Oprah and Dr. Maya Angelou. I firmly believe that when you are serious in your commitment to receive guidance, God directs the Universe to give you answers. Maya clearly stated how to live a life in gratitude when she encouraged Oprah to say “thank you” during a moment of crisis because, as Dr. Angelou explained, “Say thank you, because you know [that] God has put a rainbow in the clouds for you.” The moment I heard this it resonated deeply within me and I knew that was God speaking to me. My prayers now include more “thank you!” statements, than “can you?” statements. When we seek guidance from God, sometimes we may not initially receive guidance, but know that your prayer did fall on deaf ears. God always provides an answer, sometimes immediately and sometimes days, months, or years later. But, God never forgets a prayer.
Living a life in gratitude has helped me to go through spiritual storms and valleys in a more peaceful state of mind detached from emotions and judgmental thoughts. I know for certain that there are no good or bad experiences, there just is. Reading the Bible daily, practicing yoga, meditating and praying continue to help me to stay in gratitude, an elevated spiritual space, full of peace, love and positive vibes.
Please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your thoughts about this post and/or living a life in gratitude.
Live well and in gratitude,