I stood at the open door watching my kids walk out to the car. Both of them carrying impossibly-packed bags, as if they were going to stay for a week instead of only the day.

My kids are older. The first day of school shouldn’t be a big deal. But yet, there I stood watching and overcome with emotion. I was elated to still be alive. And so, I stood at the open door and sobbed.

Life had handed me a tough assignment.

I was physically exhausted. Getting up to see them off would leave me wiped out for hours. And although I had been given a second chance at life, I was not living with joy.

A couple months earlier, I had survived two strokes. In the aftermath of that event, my relationship with God was strained.

I wasn’t happy with how He was running things, and I couldn’t get beyond the fact that He wasn’t answering my prayer—I needed healing. Like, immediately, I needed it. But yet, I remained crippled: physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

I wasn’t myself. I was broken. Anger and frustration bubbled to the surface often. Daily living was marked by hardship. I told God about it regularly.

And then my kids went to school, and I remembered something I’d forgotten: I was ungrateful. The fact that I was alive didn’t matter to me nearly as much as the physical health I felt I was entitled to. I had survived, but my mind was occupied with the challenges. Everything I’d worked for was in limbo. My job, my mind, my relationships. Fear and dread had replaced gratitude.

In my desire to have physical healing, I had neglected a central command found in 1 Thess. 5:18—in all circumstances give thanks.

Giving thanks brings healing, but at a different level than merely being able to move my hand correctly or control my emotions. To be honest, I was waiting to be healed to be grateful for that, but scripture is clear. I can’t wait for the result I want—I need to be grateful “in all things.” All means all, even the painful stuff.

I’ve heard Woody say that gratitude is a spiritual endorphin. Think about that. One function of endorphins is to control pain. Quite literally, they can change the way you experience the world. Gratitude operates similarly. It can change your worldview. It dulls pain by focusing your eyes on God and away from your hurt.

So, on that day, I dropped the heavy weight of bitterness and anger. I didn’t feel like it, but I contacted Shea Foster, who was there when I had my strokes. I thanked her for obeying God and for working quickly to make sure I was taken care of when it happened. I told her I was grateful, because I was able to see my kids off to school for their first day.

Was it immediate, this change? Yes. I had forgotten the fact I wasn’t yet healed. I had forgotten my hurt and bitterness.

Was it permanent? No. At times, I’d pick up that baggage of hurt and bitterness again. Then, I’d need to remember to be grateful. It’s God’s will, and it’s the best thing for me.

But now I know. Being grateful is far better than being healed.