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How to be Grateful in Hard Times: 15 Powerful Ways

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All Scripture references come from the King James Version of the Holy Bible (KJV)."

This post is the second in my series called, the power of gratitude.  It is a guest post, written by one of my favorite people, Jessie Synan from JessieSynan.com.  Jessie has been instrumental in teaching me a lot of what I know about blogging.  Sit back, relax and enjoy a very special blog post.  For more information on Jessie, her bio is at the end.  So without further ado… 

I used to think of myself as a grateful person. Then one day, I was handed a challenge. Go one day without complaining. Simple, right? I was going through a really hard time in life, but I still thought it would be easy. Instead, I was hit with the realization. I was using my struggle in life as an excuse to complain and not be grateful. I realized through that one day that finding gratitude was something that I needed to practice daily. Through my journey of finding gratitude, I came up with 15 different things I could use to learn how to be grateful in hard times.

It’s Not About Having Gratitude, It’s About Finding Gratitude

This was the biggest statement I was missing in life. I thought having gratitude and being optimistic were personality traits. But I never realized that instead finding gratitude was a practice. I needed to start learning how to be grateful in hard times and work daily on walking with God and being grateful to Him for everything He was doing in my life, even if life wasn’t close to how I imagined it would be.

How to Be Grateful in Hard Times: 15 Ways

1. Accept the Obstacle that You Are Going Through

I hate starting with this one, but I personally believe that if we do not start with this one it is almost impossible to do the others on this list. Part of learning how to be grateful in hard times is accepting, and them embracing, the possible barriers to finding gratitude.

When the unthinkable happens in our life, we need time to grieve over it. I even think it’s okay to be mad for a bit. It is healthy to go through the emotions as long as there is a day that we make the pivotal decision that we are going to accept that what has happened, and now we need to move forward in how to handle it.

I can read all the self-help books in the world, but the only way I have ever been able to accept trials in my life is to lean into God’s word. And I’m not talking about the happy inspirational quotes. Lean into the other people in the Bible that had to accept the challenges they were facing. My recommendations would be Psalms and anything that Paul wrote while in jail.

There are many stories of people who struggled in the Bible and how they still looked to God, and those people are there to remind us how to connect with God no matter what our Earthly situation looks like.

2. Find Your Tribe

I also call this “Find Your Five”. Going through a challenge can be especially hard sometimes because it can seem like no one understands what you are going through.

I’ve noticed that people, myself included, sometimes don’t know what to say in tough conversations, so they automatically try to relate to it. Please keep in mind that people that do this almost always have the best intention. It is simply a way for someone’s brain to attempt to empathize on the fly when they are unsure of what to say. However, sometimes we go through really unique situations and the people we try to talk to truly don’t understand what we are going through, as hard as they try.

Because of this, I came up with Find Your Five. Search hard until you find five people that you can count on no matter what to be there for you when you are going through something hard. This could be someone that has gone through a similar situation, or it could be someone that has a beautiful God-given gift of empathy and good listening ears.

As long as you save these people for the especially hard times and don’t turn any of these people in replacement for a counselor, having up to five people that you know you can turn to can help change your outlook on how to be grateful in hard times.

Places to “find your five” could be: church, support groups, meetup groups online, or even online Facebook groups.

3. Gratitude Journal

I love the idea of gratitude journaling. It doesn’t even need to be anything complicated. You can grab a notebook or buy a gratitude journal online. There are many great ones on Amazon. By simply trying this each day, your mind will start to notice more to be thankful for in life.

Grab your gratitude Journal here

4. Give Someone Else a Gratitude Journal And Do It Together

I have read a lot of advice on finding gratitude, and almost all of them recommend some sort of gratitude journal. And I couldn’t agree more that having a gratitude journal goes a long way. But how about doubling those efforts by doing it with someone?

Sometimes it is helpful to have someone do it alongside you (either together, or separately so you can share with each other what you wrote) to maximize gratefulness. When you hear someone talk about what they are grateful for, it can lead to not only great conversations but also beautiful reminders of things we may have blind spots to.

I recommend either finding a friend to do it with, or if you have kids this is a great project to work on together. I found 5 perfect gratitude journals for kids that I personally recommend, but you could even buy a notebook and just decorate it.

5. Read Books About Overcoming Obstacles

Books can be powerful in helping you when you are finding gratitude in your own life. After I read Victory Over Affliction, I was reminded of all of the things I was grateful for in life that I otherwise completely forget about. Having daily gratitude readings or daily gratitude reflections can go a long way in helping gratitude become a habit. Take time to find books about hope and inspiration to help you get through tough times.

6. Perform Random Acts of Kindness

When I say random, I mean random. Go out of your comfort zone and do some surprising acts of kindness that make heads turn. You will end the day feeling so grateful for the world you live in.Check out 105 ideas for the best random acts of kindness. Let us know which is your favorite!

7. Create Positive Social Media Posts

Social media can be known as the breeding ground for negativity and criticism in the world. Be the person that stands out on social media feeds by promoting kindness and gratitude. By practicing gratitude on a platform you can start to develop those habits naturally.

8. Volunteer In an Unfamiliar Place

Go out of your way to volunteer in a place you normally wouldn’t with a population you normally would not reach out to.

Whether that is cooking a meal for someone that is homeless, visiting a domestic violence shelter, or working in a community garden, by switching your normal environment for an unfamiliar one, it can teach you how to be grateful in hard times.

field of white flowers, how to be grateful in hard times

9. Write a Thank You Note

Writing a thank you note to someone that you normally wouldn’t write one to can go a long way. Try to surprise someone with a genuine handwritten thank you note. It will make your day, and it will help you remember the people in your life that you are grateful for.

10. No Complain Day

I try to do this once a month ever since the day I was handed what I thought would be an easy challenge. Pick a day that you will remember, like the first of every month. Start your month off right by trying to do everything under your power to go one full day without complaining. Don’t beat yourself up when you mess up though. Half of the battle is noticing the complaints. We sometimes become blind to how often we complain.

I think of myself as a pretty optimistic person, so I was surprised when I realized how often I went to complain! The worst part is I work from my home, so my poor husband who also works from home was getting the brunt of all of these complaints.

By taking the first day of each month to try not to complain about anything, it re-adjusts my mindset and helps me in finding gratitude for the rest of the month.

11. Pray For Your Enemies

You know how many times I deleted this off the list?! God kept nudging me to put it back on. I don’t like this one, it is too hard for me. However, we can learn how to be grateful in hard times when we pray for others that we may not normally pray for.

I challenge you to try praying for some people that may be wreaking havoc in your life for the next week or so and see how you feel after a week of praying for them.

Click here to grab your free calendar

12. Play the Bedroom Money Game

Take one room in your house. Let’s just use the bedroom as an example. Take just one room, and slowly add up how much everything in that room costs.

For example, this is what is in my bedroom:

  • A broken IKEA bookshelf from when I was in college
  • A second-hand desk
  • A bed
  • a lamp

We are pretty frugal, and sometimes I look at my bedroom and get ashamed about what I don’t have. I find it hard to be grateful when things I have are all used and broken in some way, shape or form. However, the pastor said to start putting money signs on everything in your bedroom:

      • IKEA bookshelf: $20
      • Corner desk: $40
      • Bed: $800
      • Lamp: $20
      • Total: $880

This means that at some point in my life, I spent $880 for my bedroom alone. And that is with only four things in the bedroom!

Now keep this in mind:

I understand that knowing these statistics does not change the struggle we are facing or the trial we are going through. However, there is beauty in knowing that our hardest struggles may be minuscule compared to what others are facing. It is hard not to find gratitude in what we have if we assign a dollar sign to everything in just one room of the house!

13. Understand Your Strongholds

We all sin, but strongholds is different than sin. A stronghold is something that the enemy uses over your life to hold you down and prevent you from the great promises God has for your life.

A stronghold could be anything such as insecurity, idolatry, fear of failure, rejection, etc. Take some time and pray for God to remove any blind spots and reveal to you any stronghold that is taking over your life and preventing you from finding gratitude in the midst of struggles.

Once God has revealed that to you, pray for those strongholds to be broken. Find powerful Bible verses that will help you through the process and put them everywhere you can to help you break free from what is weighing you down.

14. Understand Your Purpose

Once you feel that those strongholds are broken, or in the process of being broken, use that freedom to understand the purpose that God wants you to have in life. How can the scars of the trials that you have gone through be used for purpose?

Finding God’s purpose in life over your purpose in your life can be a tough one, but if you work on finding that with God through reading and prayer, you will catch yourself finding gratitude and learning how to be grateful in hard times.

15. 5 Year Prayer Journal

There is power in answered prayers. The issue for me is that when a prayer gets answered, I am already on the next thing. It has been said that the average attention span for adults is now 8 seconds. That is less than a goldfish. Even though that specific number is up for debate, there is no denying that as humans, our attention span is low.

When I forget to thank God for unanswered prayers, I remember the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed, and how only one of them turned around to say thank you. I feel like I am a grateful person, but with so many prayers being sent up to Heaven, it is easy to forget how many God has answered!

That is why I love the idea of a 5 year prayer journal. They usually give just 1-2 lines a day for you to write in, but then at the end of the five years you get to look back at each day and see all the prayers that were answered.

What if I am Still Struggling in Learning How To Be Grateful in Hard Times?

Remember that you are never alone. These 15 hints in finding gratitude can be a help, but they can never be the miracle answer for it all. If you have finished reading this and believe that there is no hope at all, please note the following:

Please know that if you are extremely depressed it is always okay to get help. It does not mean you are not strong enough to do things on your own, it means that you are so strong that you are willing to use all the resources necessary to help you get through tough times.

Please know that more than anything, your story matters. If it didn’t, God would not have even bothered creating you. It IS as simple as that. If you are having any suicidal feelings or thoughts, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. There is also an online chat option.

If you are not U.S. based, here is a list of International Suicide Prevention hotline numbers.

Hopefully you found yourself here simply to look into finding gratitude and ways to be more grateful, but I go into this knowing that some people that are searching for this are feeling hopeless, and that is a feeling that no one deserves to have. Always reach out if you need anything, you are not alone.

Now It’s Your Turn To Talk About Finding Gratitude: What Can You Do Today To Start Learning How to Be Grateful In Hard Times?

Comment below and let us know which one was your favorite, or if you have other ways that you practice gratitude in tough times.

smiling curly haired woman in carJessie is a full-time social media strategist and blogger. She focuses on digital discipleship and helping ministries and nonprofits expand their mission through social media and blogging. She can be found at jessiesynan.com. When she is not buried in social media content, she is beach bumming with her husband and two little ones in southeastern North Carolina.

I hope you enjoyed Jessie’s wonderful post and the latest guest post in our Power of Gratitude Series. You can find the rest of the series in this compilation post called 6 Great Stories of the Power of Gratitude.  Be sure to check them out!

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  1. Oh wow! I so so so wish I had this post a few weeks ago. Breaking my foot really did a work on me emotionally. The healing process has been rough. The cool thing is it will still give me some real practical tips as I continue to heal. I especially like the part that about accepting where I am.

    1. I’m so sorry about your foot, Teri, but I’m thankful that you found this post. Jessie has given you some wonderful, practical tips to find gratitude in the hard times.

    1. Yes we can relate, Angie. Everyone goes through hard times. Finding gratitude during those hard times is what counts

  2. “Volunteer in an unfamiliar place” is a wonderful idea that I have never thought of. This is a great post full of practical and helpful tips!

    1. I agree, Heather! Jessie offered some great tips for being grateful during hard times. So many tips that I hadn’t thought of before.

  3. This is so powerful! It literally brought me to tears. I love these suggestions for how to be grateful in hard times. In fact, I am going to implement the bedroom money game and praying about the strongholds in my life TODAY!

    1. I agree, Erin. I teared up reading this post as well. Jessie did a great job. I had never heard of the bedroom money game either. It’s such a beautiful idea.

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