Shaped by Gratitude
Monday, December 4, 2017
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Who of us has not grown up with the parental reminder, "Remember to say 'thank you'"? Thanks is one of those magic words. Not only is it proper etiquette, it is also the foundation of our heart's connection with God.
"The most important prayer in the world is just two words long: 'Thank you.'"–Meister Eckart
If, on true examination of the heart, we find more grumbling than gratitude, the scriptures can assist an attitude adjustment. The Bible overflows with instruction on the "where, when, why, and how" of gratitude. In fact, the first Thanksgiving feasts were the Israelites'—among them, The Feast of Weeks (Ex. 34:22) and The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23: 34-43). The book of Psalms instructs more than 30 times to thank God. Many times gratitude is the only response to "[God's] love endures forever" (Ps. 118:29, NIV). The Old Testament prophet Daniel's thanksgiving habit disregarded his circumstances (Dan. 6:10). Jesus' life modeled humble gratitude. Countless times he gave thanks to the Father for bread and wine—at the Last Supper (Mark 14:22-23); for loaves and fishes that would feed thousands (Matt.14:19); for a post-resurrection meal with his disciples (Luke 24:30).
Gratitude is a God-given gift to lead us to God. When we acknowledge him as the source of all goodness (James 1:17), our thankfulness deepens. The deeper we go into the heart of God, the more authentic our appreciation of the God who loves us and desires only our good. Our five senses awaken to his abundant gifts. We find ourselves "lost in wonder, love, and praise" and the gratitude cycle begins again! We can even be grateful for being grateful! Christina Rossetti insightfully observed, "The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank."
A gratitude-filled heart lacks the room for whining, self-pity, pride, or hatred. A life of gratitude actually distinguishes us from the wicked, who refuse to give thanks to God (Rom. 1:21).
Gratitude takes practice. As we consciously awaken to all we have to be grateful for, God will slowly develop in us a continual attitude of gratitude. Richard Foster suggests we counter every complaint with ten gratitudes! When we are discouraged, an old hymn ("Count Your Blessings") gives us great counsel on the benefits of a grateful heart:
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
True thankfulness is the ground not only of our love for God, but our neighbor, and for acts of service. The work of our daily lives is at its best when it springs from a grateful heart.
As you end your day, take inventory of all your blessings. And let gratitude take hold of you!
Judi Mayne is Minister of Education at First United Methodist Church in Kerrville, Texas, and is a contributing writer for TheHighCalling.org. This article is adapted with permission from her original article "Humbly Grateful, or Grumbly Hateful?" at TheHighCalling.org. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures quoted are taken from the New Living Translation.
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