Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being,
praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits–
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you
with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
When cancer enters our lives with all its threats of harm, we are likely to struggle with fear, anger and depression. These are normal and probably unavoidable emotional responses to the dangers we perceive from a diagnosis of cancer.
But once in awhile, on the emotional roller coaster with cancer, the sun breaks through the clouds and we see life and relationships in entirely new ways. We understand with profound clarity that life is a gift. And we experience gratitude.
Gratitude is the capacity to acknowledge and receive the gifts that are offered to us every day. Gratitude allows us to see that what we have in life has come to us by God’s grace.
The practice of opening ourselves to gratitude involves a few basic steps. We might begin by asking God’s help to notice the gifts that are being offered to us in the present moment. As we begin to notice the gifts, both big and small, we can allow ourselves to acknowledge them and to express our gratitude. All of this can be done in the quiet of our hearts and minds, or it can be something we write about or share with others.
The experience of gratitude is not something we need to force. It is not an attempt to avoid painful realities. It is an awareness of the many gifts of sustaining grace we are being given in the midst of our struggles.
Gratitude tends to emerge more freely in the moments of life when we are able to stop our frantic efforts to prove ourselves or to earn our way through life. It happens when we realize that the essence of life is not performing, or proving ourselves, or hanging on to what we have, but that the essence of life is in being who we are and knowing that all we are and have is a gift to be shared.
Moments of gratitude, in the midst of fear, anger and depression are moments of deep refreshment. These are moments when we are surprised by joy.
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
1. Sometimes we try to force gratitude. The people around us may seem to encourage us to do so. And we may do this on our own to avoid the down side of the emotional roller coaster of living with cancer. What experiences have you had with feeling a need to force a sense of gratitude?
2. What moments of genuine gratitude have you experienced?
3. What are you especially grateful for today?
Exercise for Discussion – Session 2
Many of the Psalms are expressions of deep, genuine gratitude to God for the gifts of life. Write a psalm or prayer of your own to express your gratitude to God.
(Allow people who desire to do so to read these prayers aloud to the group.)