Growing Gratitude


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 116; 147:12-20, Nehemiah 1:1-11, Revelation 5:11-6:11, Matthew 13:18-23

For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.

I walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

I kept my faith, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;

I said in my consternation,
“Everyone is a liar.”

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of gratitude in improving our attitude. From bestselling books, to inspirational speakers, to social media challenges, we encounter reminders to be grateful all over the place. The United States and other countries have set aside national holidays of thanksgiving dedicated specifically to the idea (if not always the practice) of gratitude.

But there is a subtle yet important difference between thanks and gratitude. Thanks is reaction; we offer it in response to something we’ve been given – things like presents, good health, food, service, and encouragement. Gratitude is a state of mind that exists beyond and between the gifts. We may become more acutely aware of it under certain conditions, but real gratitude comes from within us, not from what others have done for us.

The author of Psalm 116 was both thankful and grateful. His reasons for thanks are abundantly clear: the Lord has kept him from stumbling, dried his tears, and rescued him from death. His gratitude is apparent in different verses. Even during times of difficulty, the psalmist keeps his faith. He doesn’t have to deny his state of affliction or the misdeeds of liars to maintain gratitude, because it doesn’t require us to be thankful for our present circumstances. Gratitude sustains us when we feel like we have nothing at present to be thankful for.

Gratitude is not just a state of heart, but a practice. We can build emotional and spiritual resilience by being intentional about our practice. Daily reflection or journaling on why we are grateful can help us through those rougher patches. Expressing gratitude is an important component of our regular worship. In times of stress, a litany of gratitude can calm us. When life is overwhelmingly busy, focusing on gratitude can help us get our priorities straight.

Gratitude is a gift and a prayer which centers and grounds us. When we have to dig deep for it, we find a wellspring of the holy.

Comfort: Our God has done great things for us.

Challenge: Let us learn to be grateful even when things aren’t great.

Prayer: I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD. (Psalm 116:17)

Discussion: What are you grateful for today?

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