The author found that the trick was saying “thank you…” 50 times. It's a "rosary" of thankfulness.
There are days when nothing can go right. Relationship problems, work stress, setbacks, holes in the budget, sick children… Everything seems to be working against us, and when things keep getting worse, we can reach a point where we feel we just can’t anymore. It’s just too much.
We’ve all had days like that. Days that are not only powerfully frustrating and irritating, but even physically painful.
I read somewhere that Jews and Arabs living in the Holy Land have a common word, which is “khalas.” It means something like “finish, enough, stop it.” They use it when they’ve had enough problems, when they have had enough of EVERYTHING.
Sometimes we utter a sort of “khalas” tearfully somewhere in the depths of our souls. Unfortunately, there are also times when really bad days can come in twos and threes or even longer sequences.
Willingly or unwillingly, black bitterness can begin to seep into the recesses of our heart. It can insidiously and effectively poison us from the inside. This, unfortunately, makes it unlikely that we will perceive the following days as being better.
Is there any way to break this vicious cycle? In my opinion, there is. It just takes a little perseverance and patience.
One of my favorite saints, Nicholas of Flüe, used to say that sometimes God gives us such a desire for prayer that “we yearn for it as if we were waiting to go to a dance.” However, there are also times when talking to God comes to us with the greatest difficulty and effort.
I’ll be honest, I have trouble praying when life gets me down. It starts with not being able to gather my thoughts. I feel bad. I can’t seem to pray at all. Some people recommend worshiping God just then — and they do, and reap the fruits of such extreme prayer.
Some people are able to pull themselves together even at a difficult time in their lives to offer prayers of reparation. One devotion is to do this on the first Saturday of the month. Not long ago, a friend of mine stayed for adoration on the first Friday of the month. As I left the church I saw that she was still praying. The next afternoon she came to lead the First Saturday service, but … with a cast from her foot to her knee. The previous day, leaving the church, she had broken her leg. Yet, just a matter of hours after the accident, probably still in great pain, she came to serve and to offer her sufferings in reparation.
If it had been me, I probably would have skipped the prayer service and concentrated on the pain of the broken limb. It’s clear that it’s not the form of prayer itself, but our condition and attitude that makes it more or less difficult … or easier.
I am not yet able to worship sincerely when the world is crashing down upon me. But I am trying something a little different, which is more to my liking. It’s not easy for me, but it works.
Things large and small we can take for granted
At a moment when bitterness had just poured out of me profusely, I had an inspiration: Start praying prayers of gratitude.
Everything boiled inside me at the idea. I’m in a black hole! What should I be grateful for?
But after a while, I tried it. I gave thanks, for the fact that … I have a roof over my head, I have something to eat, I can walk, I have my sight, and I have a family.
The list continued. And immediately I realized, “Yes, it may not be too rosy right now, but these things for which I gave thanks ARE REAL AND GOOD. And after all, they could be absent! And then I would have a problem indeed.”
In moments of sober thought, when I’ve cooled down a bit from my bitterness and anger, it occurs to me that most of my problems live in my head. And this life isn’t always logical and orderly. That’s why I go back to the facts, and they are these: that today I had a good lunch, someone praised me, I got to work safely, I paid my bills….
Prayer of gratitude
Slowly, not immediately, I learned the prayer of gratitude for things big and small. As I said, it’s not easy. But gradually, every evening I tried to find a few things that were really good that day. And then I began to expand my list and found more reasons to be thankful!
One evening I took the rosary in my hand. I recited the “Our Father,” and then on each Hail Mary bead I listed one thing I wanted to thank the Lord God for that day. Between the decades, I recited a “Glory to the Father.” At the end I recited the “Hail Mary.”
In this way I found 50 things that were good that day. Recently, I’ve been trying to pray this way every day. It finally occurred to me how many wonderful things happen during the day! Each bead of the rosary is a seed of goodness that I collect into a bowl, and at the end I see how much there was.
Even when the day was difficult, after all, I received so much good from a loving God!
Will you find as many as 50 gifts from the Father every day? You will! Just give it a shot.
Maybe someday you’ll also start giving thanks for difficult things, but that’s an advanced level. It’s still beyond me.
An important tip that makes the prayer of gratitude easier? Don’t compare yourself with others — “he has it better, she leads a happier life, that guy always succeeds.” Don’t think like this. It’s your life, your path that God is leading you down. And how do you know what’s really going on in the lives and hearts of those supposedly lucky ones? Really, get busy with your own life, and most of all, with the good you’re experiencing.
The antidote to toxic bitterness
Tonight I’ll thank God for the delicious coffee I drank in the morning. I’ll thank him for breakfast. For managing to get this article to the editor. For feeling good about my writing. For all the hardworking people at Aleteia who will publish it for me. And also for … I’ll find 50 reasons to be thankful.
And you, what do you want to thank the Lord God for tonight?