Viewpoint: A Thankful Heart Is the Remedy for a Sore Heart
Contributed By the Church News
- We are commanded to give thanks always, even during trials.
- The act of expressing gratitude brings comfort.
- We can choose to be grateful, no matter our circumstances.
“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.” —President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency
Following a bitter disappointment, a woman sought solace within the walls of the temple. As she prepared to unburden her soul to her Heavenly Father in prayer, she received the impression to “express gratitude.”
Surprised and then dismayed, the woman resisted. “But Lord,” she responded, “I’m hurting.” Again, the Spirit whispered, “Express gratitude.” Again, the woman resisted. Wasn’t she justified in her grief? Shouldn’t she be allowed to share her heartache?
Like the woman, we may find expressing thankfulness to the Lord during hardship counterintuitive or close to impossible in the wake of suffering and sorrow. Yet the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon received a similar directive. When he and his fellow laborers in the Church were “suffering all manner of afflictions” and “being persecuted by all those who did not belong to the church of God,” they were commanded to “give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:38–39).
Why are we commanded to be grateful? The Lord in His wisdom knows a thankful heart is the remedy for a sore heart.
This lesson was demonstrated by the Jaredites as they crossed the ocean to the promised land. The scriptures record that many times they were “buried in the depths of the sea” from “great and terrible tempests” (Ether 6:6). Yet “they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord” (Ether 6:9).
When their vessels finally reached the shores of the promised land, rather than complain about the travails of their journey, “they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, … and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them” (Ether 6:12).
In the case of the woman, she obediently set aside her list of grievances and instead thanked the Lord for His blessings. She thanked Him for each of the relationships that enriched her life; she thanked Him for the bounties of the earth, for opportunities she had been given to serve and to learn and to receive an education. She thanked Him for her relationship with the Savior, for His atoning sacrifice, for the opportunity to participate in the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel, which would allow her to be with her loved ones again. The list continued. Each expression of sincere thanks brought with it an equal measure of the comfort she had been seeking.
Like the Jaredites, the woman learned gratitude cleanses our hearts of the canker of bitterness and prepares the way for other healing virtues. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, described gratitude as “the parent of all virtues.”
“How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life,” he said. “Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes!”
Often a grateful heart is also a humble heart, one that is open to receive, one that the Lord can then fill with peace, comfort, and understanding. Gratitude, then, is just as vital in times of trouble as it is in times of peace, in times of famine as in times of plenty, in times of sorrow as in times of gladness.
In the same address, President Uchtdorf encouraged individuals to see gratitude as a way of life independent of current situations. “In other words,” he said, “I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.
“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’ (see 1 Nephi 18:10–16).
“We can choose to be like Job, who seemed to have everything but then lost it all. Yet Job responded by saying, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return … the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21).
“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.
“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’ (D&C 123:17).
“We can choose to be grateful, no matter what” (“Grateful in Any Circumstances,” Apr. 2014 general conference).