“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Gratitude is often not taken seriously. Most of us go about our days either grumbling about our lot, feeling indifferent to it or coveting someone else’s. If we talk about gratitude at all, it usually comes in a Hallmark card presentation: a nice idea with well-intended sentiment but void of any real substance or depth.
And yet, gratitude is the one of the most fundamental aspects of the Christian faith and practicing it has huge implications in our lives. Forget the “feel-good Hallmark” gratitude. Real gratitude is a joyful disposition to receive what God has given you: an eager embrace of life. The cultivation and practice of it will turn you into a you that’s happier, more human, stronger and more wholesome.
1) Being grateful is God’s will for your life.
If you ever wonder what God wants for your life (as most Christians do), the Bible clearly states that God wants you to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Now, that is not to say God doesn’t want other things for your life as well, but, at the very least, we know God wants us to be thankful in every circumstance.
And, when you do what you were created to do, you thrive and you glorify God.
2) Being grateful allows you to embrace life to its fullest.
As I mentioned before, gratitude is a joyful disposition to receive the life God has given you; it is an eager embrace of life. Or, to put it differently, gratitude is like a set of glasses that allow you to embrace life to its fullest, to see it as full of goodness and beauty.
The implications of such glasses are that instead of fear, anxiety or doubt, you have confidence. Instead of misery, you have joy. You see life and all its vicissitudes not as a threat but as an opportunity. Behind everything you encounter, there’s a surprise or an opportunity waiting. Life is not something to be afraid of, but something to be embraced.
Behind everything you encounter, there’s a surprise or an opportunity waiting. Life is not something to be afraid of, but something to be embraced.
Now, you may think I am being naive. How can I say when we are thankful we see life primarily as a good thing when there is so much sin and suffering around us? I am certainly not asking you to pretend sin and suffering are nonexistent. Life sometimes sucks! But we ought to face it as believers in Christ: with hope, confidence and the certainty that sin and suffering don’t have the last word. In other words, we ought to face sin and suffering with thankfulness.
3) Being thankful makes you physically healthier.
There are several scientific studies that have shown the physical benefits of being thankful.
“…participants who kept an online gratitude journal for two weeks reported better physical health, including fewer headaches, less stomach pain, clearer skin, and reduced congestion. These results are consistent with a 2003 paper published by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. In that study, college students who wrote about things they were grateful for just once a week for ten weeks reported fewer physical symptoms (such as headaches, shortness of breath, sore muscles, and nausea) than students who wrote about daily events or hassles.”
Basically, thankfulness even makes you happier and healthier. Still, I know what you’re thinking. Sure, this is all great: following what God wants for me, embracing life to its fullest and living a healthier life. . . But, practically, how can I actually be grateful. Lucky for you, I’ve got you covered.
Hacks to be grateful:
1) Keep a “thankfulness journal.”
Keep it with you and make a habit to write down things you can be thankful for! If you can’t muster an ounce of gratitude, get on your knees and fake it until you make it. Pray that God would give you a thankful heart and pretend to be thankful. In time, gratitude should come.
2) Think of people that have meant a great deal in your life.
Write them a postcard thanking them for what they’ve done in your life or meant to you and send it to them.
3) Pay attention to your surroundings.
If you pay careful attention to the the world, you will realize that it is full of goodness. The following quote by Marilynne Robinson is an excellent example of what paying attention may look like: “Each morning I am like Adam, amazed at the cleverness of my hands and at the brilliance pouring into my mind through my eyes— old hands, old eyes, old mind, a very diminished Adam altogether, and still it is just remarkable.”
Gratitude is like a set of glasses that allow you to embrace life to its fullest, to see it as full of goodness and beauty.
You have the tools to experience the depths of true gratitude, embracing the fullness of the life God has given you. Jesus says, If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7). If you begin incorporating these steps into your daily life, praying for God to give you a grateful heart, He will be faithful to provide for you.
Leandro Lozada is from Puebla, Mexico and is the Program Director at Love Thy Neighborhood. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary with an emphasis in Christian Ministry.