By Beth Ann Baus, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever noticed what happens when you focus on the negative things in your life? The heartaches or the disappointments? If you're like me, your focus turns inward after a while, and suddenly, every aspect of life is tainted with negativity, and giving thanks seems impossible. You might struggle to find anything to give thanks for.
While we need to acknowledge that life is hard and take time to process the things weighing us down, we also need to not be consumed by them. Believe me, I know that's often easier said than done. When we lose a loved one, get a diagnosis, or bear the burdens of those around us, it's easy to stay focused on the brokenness of this world.
But when we cultivate a daily habit of expressing gratitude, we are not only giving honor to our Heavenly Father but also training our hearts to see the good in this world and the precious gifts our Lord has lavished on us.
What Is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is simply a collection of your thankfulness. In the moment, a gratitude journal helps you refocus, recalibrate, and rest in the goodness of the Lord. In the future, it serves as a reminder of God's faithfulness as you look back over your journal entries and reflect on the things, great and small, that you have been thankful for.
How Do I Journal My Gratitude?
There are no hard and fast rules to keeping a gratitude journal. The goal is simply to express your gratitude, hopefully drawing you nearer to the Lord and helping you build a habit of seeing his goodness all around you, even on your darkest days.
What if I Can't Think of Anything to Be Grateful For?
Hopefully, once you have cultivated a new habit, your heart will overflow with gratitude, and you will wish for more time to sit and journal. But initially, it might seem like a chore, and your mind might go blank, and that's okay. As you are forming this new habit, following prompts, like the ones you will find below, is helpful.
When Is the Best Time to Journal?
Some like to start the day with journaling gratitude in order to set the tone for the day ahead. Others like to end the day by journaling what they are grateful for, which can help calm the mind and body and promote a better night's sleep.
Do I Have to Journal Every Day?
A gratitude journal should be an add-on. It shouldn't replace your time in the Word or your time in prayer. While the best way to form a habit is to do it every day, there is still benefit in journaling weekly or simply as time allows.
Gratitude journal prompts to get you started:
The following prompts are designed to help you focus on the Lord instead of yourself, to focus on the blessings you have been given rather than the bad things that have happened to you. May the following prompts be a healthy starting place that will lead you to a lifelong habit of expressing thanks.
1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Take a moment to sit quietly before the Lord, and then, through your journaling, explore what it means to serve a God who allows us to have a personal relationship with him. How does this stir up gratitude in your heart?
2. Reflect on Lamentations 3:22-23 and how God's mercies are new every morning. Write about what this means for you in your life and why you're thankful for this good news.
3. Think about the people who are closest to you. Write about why you're thankful for each of them. Thank God for bringing them into your life.
4. If you're able, get outside for a moment or look out a window. Journal about God's creation. What about the outdoors reminds you most of God's creativity? Thank him for allowing us to enjoy his handiwork.
5. Think of a time when someone did something unexpected for you that you deeply appreciated. Thank God for that person and the unexpected joy they brought to your life.
6. Reflect on being made in God's image. What gifts has he given you that can be used for the kingdom? Thank him for those gifts and for opportunities to put them to use.
7. Think of a time when you went to God as your refuge and strength. Thank him for being your shelter and stronghold.
8. Reflect on a time when the Lord answered a specific prayer. Thank him for caring about your life's details and hearing you when you cry out.
9. Think about the first time you heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Thank God for opening the eyes of your heart and for giving you a saving faith.
10. Reflect on who you were before you started walking in light of the gospel. Write about the differences you see in yourself now versus then. Thank God for the growth and change he's brought about in you.
11. Think back to a lonely season of life. Write about how God comforted you and brought you through that season. Thank him for his love and presence in your life.
12. Consider a time that you struggled with doubt, anger, or dryness towards God. Reflect on the ways he calmed your heart and drew you back to himself. Thank him for being patient and long-suffering.
13. Reflect on a book you've recently read, a song you enjoy, or an artist you appreciate. Thank God for gifting us with creativity and for allowing the gifts of others to enrich our lives.
14. What is your favorite food? Write about how it looks, smells, and tastes. Thank God for the enjoyment of our food. For giving us variety and allowing our food to nourish our bodies.
15. Consider your life here on earth, the good and the bad. Write about your gratitude to God for preparing you a new home with him. Thank him for the promise of eternal life.
As you begin your journey with gratitude journaling, remember that new things aren't always easy. Don't beat yourself up over a busy schedule or a lack of self-discipline. It takes time to cultivate a new habit.
Gratitude journaling isn't about having one more thing to check off your to-do list. It's about learning to recognize and joyfully document the gratitude in your heart. It's about training yourself to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
Beth Ann Baus is a wife and mother of two adult sons. She is a freelance writer and author of Sister Sunday, My So Much More, and His Power, Our Weakness: Encouragement for the Biblical Counselor. In her writing, Beth often pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and OCD. Beth has a heart for homeschooling, women’s ministry, and is an ACBC-certified Biblical Counselor. She loves serving alongside her husband and pointing couples to the Word for strengthening their marriages and home life. You can find more from her at www.bethannbaus.com.