Years ago, our Thanksgiving table was bountifully-laden and beautifully decorated. However, the heavy spirit of an elderly relative I’ll call Ted did not reflect the joy of the season. Wanting to lighten the mood someone said, “I have an idea. Let’s tell each other one thing we are grateful for today.”Without pause, Ted responded, “What do I have to be grateful for? All I have is pain and doctor visits.”
We sat in stunned silence. Ted had a loving wife who saw to his every need, children and grandchildren who cared about him, a lovely home. He could afford the best medical care, food, medication, or service that might increase his well-being. What could possibly render him so blind to his blessings? Could it be the same myths that sometimes blind us to ours?
I’m using this little vignette because it frames the message I most want to convey as we approach the season of Thanksgiving. If we are not mindful, the great blessings of our lives can be eclipsed by myths and thought distortions and a focus on negatives. The effect can be like holding pennies over our eyes so that eternally inconsequential and relatively small things block out the brightness of the “sun” of truth that really matters.
In this article I want to focus on one enduring myth that can especially obstruct the ability to feel gratitude: there is never enough.
Uncovering the Roots of the”There’s never enough” Myth
In my case, the root of this my this fear. When I fall into fear (I hardly ever recognize when I choose it; it feels instead like I fall into it) I get totally caught up in worry that I don’t have enough time to do what needs to be done; I don’t have energy to do even the essentials; I don’t have enough money for my own needs, much less enough to help all who so desperately need help. Most troublesome, I worry that I’m not spiritual enough, not strong enough, not good enough. After a long life of striving it seems evident I haven’t been wise enough, compassionate enough, kind enough. And no matter how hard I’ve tried, I just haven’t done enough!
I believe Satan is the author of the “never enough” myth. What could better serve his purposes than to convince us it is true? What could better halt our path of progress than the roadblock of believing we don’t have whatever it takes to move forward? But the “never enough” myth is never true unless we take God out of the equation! If we keep Him and His word in the center of our lives, gratitude spills out spontaneously.
Busting the Myth with God’s Words
God made this world, and He made it ENOUGH. Psalm 33:5 tells us, “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” D&C 104:17 says: “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things.”
When we focus on the Lord, we know He offers enough of everythingbecause He either provides it to begin with or He intervenes to makes up the difference. Let’s look at the scene in Matthew 14 where Jesus took five loaves and two fishes, blessed them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the hungry multitude. To begin with, no one could argue with the fact that two fishes and five loaves were not enough foodto nourish five thousand hungry men.
(And look at the reference below: the many women and children needing to be fed were in addition to the five thousand hungry men!) But the Lord MADE those two little fishes and five little loaves enough, and more than enough: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:19-21).
When the Lord provides the feast, it will not be almost enough, or barely enough; He provides an overflow! When He changed water into wine, He didn’t make barely enough to fill the needs, but more than enough!
Gratitude Based On the Sufficiency of the Lord
My thesis here is that self-sufficiency is only possible when we depend on He who is all-sufficient. I’m saying that our thoughts should be constantly stayed on His plenty, not on our own inadequacies.
Overflowing gratitude can only be based on the fact that He is enough, not that we are enough. In Psalm 34:1-3 we read, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”
In reality, we are never enough without His help, without our connection to Him. This is one of the great lessons we are here to learn. In John 15:5 the Lord said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (emphasis mine).
If we do not choose to stay connected to the constant nourishment of the vine, we can do nothing of spiritual significance; we will not be “enough.”However, if we choose to stay connected, He makes up the difference and we can be instruments in His hands to accomplish great things. Elder Bednar, in a direct broadcast address, said that after his calling to the holy Apostleship he realized that he of himself is utterly incapable of being an apostle. He said he is not smart enough, not spiritual enough, not strong enough. Only with the constant help of the Lord can he do it. And so it is with all of us.
The Lord gives us assignments, but doesn’t require that we run off and accomplish them by ourselves. He has asked us to be yoked with Him so that His power works through and with us to accomplish His purposes. Any lack comes from lack of remembering the need to keep our connection with Him, to keep in the yoke, to keep connected to the vine.
Gratitude for the Lord’s Strengthening Power
When Alma the Younger and his brethren reunited after their great success in bringing many of the Lamanites to belief in Christ, one of them accused Alma of being carried away to boasting. Alma countered with the following important distinction: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever” (Alma 26:12). Can’t you feel Alma’s gratitude flowing out of those words?
Alma recognized the reality that he was weak; he even acknowledged that he was “nothing.” But he didn’t stop there, and neither should we. Satan wants us to just sit down and mope about our own inadequacies.
He wants us to totally forget the rest of Alma’s equation, also found in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
Alone, without His help, we are not “enough.” But the Lord gives us enoughand makes us enough when we turn to Him. In fact, we are each given exactly what we need to fill whatever mission the Lord wants us to fill. He gives us what we need the very moment we need it (usually not be forehand), and He will never let us down.
In Moses 1:39 the Lord explains that His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Part of the way he accomplishes this work is through the enabling power of the Holy Ghost that helps each of us fill the measure of our own creation. His prime priority is to make up the difference for our weaknesses . . . to not leave us alone or comfortless . . . to give us all we need to succeed at whatever tasks He gives us to do.
And so it is in every facet of our lives: When we are weak, He is strong. When we are lacking, He strengthens and fortifies us.
With the Lord’s help, Peter even walked on water! But the minute he let fear into his heart he began to sink. He cried out to the Lord and the Lord raised him up. And together they walked on water back to the boat. So even when we momentarily are sinking in fear thoughts, if we cry out to Him, he will raise us up.
It is easy to get pulled into “never enough” mentality when we try to walk on water the Lord has not assigned us to walk on: When we try to “do it all,” try to run faster than we have strength, or try to please everyone. Such patterns are motivated by ego rather than the Spirit. Ego feeds on the praise of men and can never get enough or be enough. Ego makes us feel compulsive, driven, constantly seeking prizes that never prove to be enough and do not edify the soul. Ego pulls us into perfectionism and tells us we are not enough unless we’ve “arrived.” Since that goal is not for this life, it keeps us in a constant state of “not enough” and obstructs gratitude like nothing else!
Counter Fear with Gratitude
When we choose thoughts of gratitude for God’s constancy instead of thoughts of fear, we are aware of the Lord’s over-arching under-girding support and care. We remember the little things that make life good and we recognize the Lord’s intervention in our behalf. We remember that the Lord always “prepares the way.”
Nephi set the example of faith in the Lord’s help when he said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)
What a good goal to say to ourselves daily, “I’m grateful today for the strength the Lord lends me. Whatever I am lacking He makes up for. He prepares the way. There is enough time for whatever He wants me to do, because He would never require the impossible.”
What God does require is that we learn and progress line upon line. Here a little, there a little. He works in degrees and would have us work from one degree to another. Orderly step-by-step manner is His way. Satan’s tools are fear, shame, and inappropriate guilt, all of which we should avoid when dealing with ourselves or others. We can cast Satan out. We can follow the Lord’s pattern of encouragement, light, building on strengths, repenting, and moving forward. We can choose faith over fear. We can choose to be strong in the strength of Lord. We can depend on Him and praise His Holy name. This season of Thanksgiving is a perfect time to make the choice to bust the “never enough” myth and live in gratitude instead.
Thanks to Debbie Bake for her incredible proofreading and editing skills.
Check out my website darlaisackson.com for information on my books.