How to Have a Thankful Heart Through a Chronic Illness

a heart of thanks bible reading plan

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I’ve had days when a thankful heart is the furthest thing from what I feel. Have you?

It can happen when the food you eat all the time sends your blood sugars spiraling out of control. Or the time you snag your pump tubing on the doorknob and end up holding a half-used infusion set in your hand. (Been there!) Maybe it’s the day the doctor gives you an update on a potential complication of diabetes, and the news isn’t what you wanted to hear.

Insulin Pump Tubing Dislodged

I write about something like this is my blog post called “When Diabetes Makes No Sense” (because there are just days it makes zero sense).

In those moments I find myself wanting to ask: why me? I didn’t do anything to cause my diabetes diagnosis. Didn’t ask for this and didn’t sign up for it. Yet here I am. Down in the muck, dealing with it all. This stinks.

My thoughts are typically negative in these circumstances, my heart is grumbly, and I’m the furthest thing from feeling thankful.

Why Should I have a Thankful Heart?

Living with the challenges of diabetes can make it more difficult to show gratitude and have a thankful heart. But being grateful is incredibly beneficial — and not just to your mental health or feeling happier and healthier. Check this out from the Mayo Clinic website:

Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood, and immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain, and risk of disease.

If that’s not enough reason to be thankful, we are told in scripture to be thankful. (Even the God who designed our bodies designed us to be thankful.) For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Have a Thankful Heart in all Circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Being thankful is literally God’s will for us. Did you get that? For those of you searching for God’s will for your life, gratitude is definitely a part of it.

Now, I do want to mention that it doesn’t say we have to be thankful for all circumstances. We certainly are not thankful to live with a life-long disease, right?

But this verse does say we are to give thanks “in all circumstances.” We can definitely be thankful for the ways in which this disease provides us an opportunity to grow and stretch our faith, and also for how God can use it for good.

We can have a heart of gratitude even with a chronic illness.

Why Don’t I have a Thankful Heart?

So if there are this many benefits of gratitude, and the Bible even tells us to be thankful, why don’t I have a thankful heart?

The problem in these moments is perspective — my eyes are on me.

Look back at the list I mentioned at the beginning of this article. I was concerned about my blood sugar roller coaster, my insulin pump tubing being snagged, and my potential complication. Not that we shouldn’t pay attention to those things — we should. But when our eyes are only on ourselves, we can’t see anything else.

How Can I Have a Thankful Heart?

We’ve got to shift our focus. Here are four practical things (you know how I love to be practical!) you can try to help cultivate a heart of thanksgiving — even in the midst of a chronic illness.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

You might guess you’d get this suggestion from a writer, right? But keeping a gratitude journal is so beneficial. There’s just something about acknowledging our blessings and documenting it on paper. And then you can go back and re-read what you’ve written in the past and be reminded of those blessings.

Sometimes you may struggle to think of something to be thankful for, especially on super challenging days, but there’s something. Even something as simple as the beauty of a sunset or having a good friend. So get started today.

2. Slow Down

My amazing co-blogger wrote about the importance of slowing down in a blog post previously. In it, she lists several practical things that help her slow down. In addition to her list, I would add these:

  • Savor each meal. Full disclosure: this is something I’m super bad about, and need to be more mindful of. I tend to rush through eating to move onto the next thing. (Perhaps even my blood sugar levels would be better if I slowed down!)
    I need to slow down and enjoy the meal and conversation in front of me. And I need to be thankful for the meal I have — not everyone has good access to food.
  • Take a moment to appreciate the beauty around you. Take in the magnitude of God. This is something I encourage in my book on day 18:

I encourage you today to take a walk, find a park, go on a hike, sit on a bench, or rest on the porch. Take in the magnitude of God. See the calm water of a lake, feel a gentle breeze, and hear the sound of nature. Forget everything else, even for just a few moments, and simply dwell on the visible evidence of God all around you. 

Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul, Day 18

3. Post Reminders

If you are a visual person, creating reminders of what you are thankful for may be beneficial. Maybe these reminders to be thankful link directly to your “why” behind good diabetes care. You can display photos of people you love to remind you who you are thankful for. Perhaps you can post scriptures reminding you to be grateful and joyful.

Are there symbols that remind you to be grateful? Not just stuff that makes you happy, but things that bring you true joy. For example, I have an anchor sitting in front of our fireplace to remind me of my book and how God gave me a new perspective to share with others. It’s positioned right in front of containers of sand that remind me of my wedding day. I love visual reminders!

Anchor and sand

4. Tune Your Heart

I wrote about this in the blog post called “3 Reasons to Calibrate Your CGM,” and I stand by what I said:

God has planned our days, and we are meant to carry out His will in our life. We need to be connected to God on order to do so.

How are you connecting with God? How are you putting Him first in your life? This is a definite way to cultivate a thankful heart.

Romans 12:2 says we should “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” And the renewing of our minds happens by connecting with God.

Giving thanks to God may not change our circumstances, but it will tune our hearts and minds to Him.

What Does God’s Word Say About Gratitude?

We are about to uncover several verses about gratitude that are sure to encourage you. The Psalms are full of verses about having a thankful heart, and that’s where we will pull from each day for the entire month of November as we walk through this new reading plan together.

Your free instant download is below. So enjoy these next 30 days focused on cultivating “A Heart of Thanks” as you read God’s Word. Let Him reach you and encourage you each and every day.

Let’s Start with Prayer

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

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Having a Heart of Thanks With a Chronic Illness

More Bible Reading Plans

Bible Reading Plan: Renewing Your Hope
how to find strength in weakness, pictured: young girl laying on a couch with her arm over her eyes
How to Apply Bible Verses About God's Goodness to Living with a Chronic Illness

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Kaycee - Devotions on Diabetes

HEY - I'M KAYCEE!

Welcome to my Devotions on Diabetes website! Thanks for stopping by. I've lived with diabetes for 30+ years. And I'm here to provide you with a heaping helping of encouragement while you deal with diabetes and navigate this chronic illness with God by your side.

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