Wednesday, August 20, 2014

TFOT - Grateful in Any Circumstances - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Class Exercise
Give questionnaire and pencil to each person as they come in to the RS room.

1.      How do you feel today?
2.      Rate your week on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best week ever)
3.      Have you felt angry, lonely, frustrated, depressed or worried?
4.      Is anything weighing on your mind today?
5.      Are you Grateful?

As Disciples of Christ, we are commanded to do the following:

1.      “thank the Lord our God in all things”
(Doctrine and Covenants 59:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)

2.      to “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving”
(Psalm 147:7)

3.      and to “let our heart be full of thanks unto God”
(Alma 37:37)

Sooner or later, all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift.  It can happen to anyone. No one is immune.
Everyone's situation is different, and the details of each life are unique.  Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives.  There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious."


Discussion:  What does it mean to be grateful?

Pres. Uchtdorf comments:  It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.

Reader #1
Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings”—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.
So what’s the difference?  The difference is made up of two parts.  The first part is our attitude.  Since we know that the Gospel is about “the go and doing” (and we are an action oriented church) we can look at how we process gratitude in an active sense.  We see this in our conversations:

Active gratitude in the negative sense (“at least”)
Active gratitude in the neutral sense (“enough”)
Active gratitude in the positive sense (“wonderful”)

Active gratitude in the negative sense – we can use the Pollyanna glad-game.  When the barrels came from the church charity and it had crutches in it instead of a toy, her glad game allowed her to reason that “at least we have no reason to use them”.  In this negative sense, we look beyond our present circumstance and compare it to something worse, since in this mindset, things could always be worse.

Active gratitude in the neutral sense -   shows that we choose to accept that what we have is “enough”.  In using this sense, we actually change the standard of adequacy and adjust to this new level.  We do not go out and seek more, instead we become content for the time.  We can find that we can be happy with less and in this our hearts can be full.

Finally, active gratitude in the positive sense – Gratitude in this sense looks beyond current circumstance and sees and decides that things are more than enough, they are in fact wonderful.  It is the gratitude that is conscious of the ever present treasures that are not only abundant but truly glorious. 

Consider answering the question – How was dinner?  In each of these senses.

The second part of having an attitude of gratitude that differs from being thankful for things comes in the correction to the false notion that we often misinterpret that we should be thankful for the trials that come our way.   

Reader #2
Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.”

Years ago I met a dear friend who was struggling as her husband had early that year been diagnosed with sinus cancer.  As the summer came to a close and school began that fall, her youngest daughter began to complain of leg pain and was quickly diagnosed with leukemia and she took some time just before thanksgiving to write out a perfect example of this idea of gratitude as a disposition –

Imagine every year for Thanksgiving that you and your family go to a wonderful all-you-can-eat buffet. The food is always great and you look forward to getting the same delicious meal, year after year. So this year, you give your standard order to the waitress: an appetizer of “love”, a “caring” salad, the side dishes, “thoughtfulness” “compassion” and “laughter” and a big, juicy entrée of “good health and happiness for everyone”. The waitress brings you everything you asked for but the entrée. Instead, in front of you on the table, she places a big, fat poop-filled sandwich. And the conversation goes a little something like this:

You: “excuse me, I didn’t order this sandwich”

Waitress: “house special. You got it without asking”

You: “but I don’t want a poop-filled sandwich. I want good health and happiness for everyone.”

Waitress: “well, you got a poop-filled sandwich.”

You (getting upset) “well take it back and give me what I asked for instead!”

Waitress points to a sign that says “Absolutely NO substitutions”

You say adamantly: “there is positively no way I am going to be able to choke down this sandwich and I think it’s really unfair for you to expect me to”.

And the waitress replies “hey, look. You’ve still got love, caring, thoughtfulness, compassion and laughter, so try to appreciate those. Oh, I almost forgot, here’s your condiment tray for the sandwich. You also get big overflowing bowls of fear, worry, anger, guilt and resentment. Bon Appetit!”

And so you’re looking around the restaurant, feeling really grumpy about your sandwich, and you realize that there are a lot more people with sandwiches than you ever thought possible. And from the looks on their faces, none of them ordered them, either. Then you see a couple of tables with really, really big, Dagwood-sized sandwiches and you summon the waitress again. “Excuse me, why are their sandwiches so big?” And she explains that those people are facing situations even worse than yours. Their kids haven’t responded well to treatment, have had cancer relapses, or worse yet, died. And you start to think maybe your sandwich isn’t so bad after all. Maybe you should keep your big mouth shut, choke it down, and be glad when it’s all gone and everyone is well again. And then, right then, your waitress reminds you of one last thing: “Management reserves the right to serve you another, bigger sandwich, anytime they want”

I am not Thankful for Cancer.  But I am moved to recognize the many things along the way. 

I am grateful that it looks like a CVS pharmacy exploded in my kitchen. That means there are drugs that can be used for treatment.  I am grateful my husband has a good job with good insurance and that so far, finances are not one more worry to add into the rest of this. I am grateful for the friends and family, both near and far, who have supported us so kindly.  I am grateful that when K was diagnosed, my mother was able to drop everything to come and be with us. I am grateful that my dad and my sister so willingly held down the fort in her absence.  And while I am not thankful for cancer, I am grateful that my husband had his diagnosis earlier this year.  Had he not, he would have been in Sarejavo when K was diagnosed. As hard as that week was, I am grateful we were able to face it together as a family.

She was not happy or thankful for her trial, but she went out of her way to find things IN the circumstances to center her attitude in a positive way that allowed her simple joys along the way.

Reader #3
My dear brothers and sisters, the choice is ours. We can choose to limit our gratitude, based on the blessings we feel we lack. Or we can choose to be like Nephi, whose grateful heart never faltered. When his brothers tied him up on the ship—which he had built to take them to the promised land—his ankles and wrists were so sore “they had swollen exceedingly,” and a violent storm threatened to swallow him up in the depths of the sea. “Nevertheless,” Nephi said, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.

Reader #4
We can choose to be like the Mormon pioneers, who maintained a spirit of gratitude during their slow and painful trek toward the Great Salt Lake, even singing and dancing and glorying in the goodness of God. Many of us would have been inclined to withdraw, complain, and agonize about the difficulty of the journey.

Reader #5
We can choose to be like the Prophet Joseph Smith, who, while a prisoner in miserable conditions in Liberty Jail, penned these inspired words: “Dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”

When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.

We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, we give thanks.  But how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?

Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.

So let’s look at those questionnaires that we filled at out at the start of this discussion.  Is it possible to change our perspective simply by changing the active sense of gratitude?

Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true.  By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”

True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.

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