The soul thrives on gratitude.
This one is tough. It’s something we must work at because our default mode is entitlement. We believe that gifts received, and experiences enjoyed are rightfully ours. We are, in fact, owed. Entitlement and ingratitude grow deep within our being.
Recall that in his letter to the saints at Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). He penned these words for those in the church – followers of Jesus. The recipients of his letter were redeemed by God, yet they needed to be reminded to be grateful.
Gratitude is a way of looking at life, a way that perceives the good. It is the direct result of grace. Poet and preacher, Henry Van Dyke defined gratitude as “the inward feeling of kindness received” and thankfulness as “the natural impulse to express that feeling.”
Difficult though it may be gratitude is a virtue worthy of our cultivation.
Jesus is not only the way to gratitude, but He also shows us the way.
One of the places where He shows us best is in Luke 22:19. Here it is recorded that “He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Jesus was about to endure the worst possible, yet He felt gratitude. And there in the upper room He offered thanks for the grace and glory that were to come.
Practicing the very attitude of Jesus helps us cultivate the virtue of gratitude.
3 ELEMENTS OF GRATITUDE
Gratitude comes from the Latin word bene, meaning “good,” and it always involves three factors.
Keep in mind what we said above. “Gratitude is a way of looking at life, a way that perceives the good. It is the direct result of grace.” To be grateful, we must receive a gift and recognize it as good. The gift is the benefit.
A benefactor is someone who does good, who has good intentions toward us. One who is grateful, believes that the good received – the gift – comes from God (James 1:17). He lavishes us with benefits, and we respond with gratitude.
The beneficiary is the one who receives the good gifts. We are the beneficiaries of the benefits of God – the One who has our best interests at heart. And this giving of gifts or bestowing of benefits is going on all the time.
To cultivate gratitude in our lives, we must be intentional. Training is required. Perhaps this month of Thanksgiving is a good time for some gratitude training. The following are just a few simple ideas for exercising your gratitude muscles.
1. Count Gifts/Benefits
Keep an ongoing list. Each day of the month, add 3-4 things for which you are grateful to your list.
2. Write a Gratitude Letter
Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted your life for the good. Include details. Tell them WHY you are grateful to them. Mail the letter or meet with the person face-to-face and read it to them.
3. Study the Names of God
Choose a different name each day. Think about what you already know about the name and what it means to you. See what new things you can learn about the name. In prayer, thank God for this name and what it means about Him.
4. Journal Your Reflections
Consider the wonderful deeds of God – the ones recorded in the Bible and the ones you have personally experienced. Add a different deed to your journal each day and write about it in as much detail as you are able.
5. Pray Your Own Benedictions
In Hebrew, a benediction was any prayer than began with the word bless. Benedictions were training in the virtue of gratitude. The Hebrew benedictions connected the benefit with the benefactor reminding the Israelites that all that was good came from God.
Benedictions are brief statements that recognize the good that comes from God. To pray your own benedictions, make a list of things you are grateful to God for providing. Then turn the items on your list into benedictions by inserting the words “Blessed are you, O Lord” before each item. For example, if sunshine is on your list, you might pray, “Blessed are you, O Lord, for creating the beauty and warmth of sunshine.”
Benedictions are an expression of gratitude that blesses both the beneficiary and the benefactor.
Gratitude is not our default. It must be cultivated. Let’s take this month of Thanksgiving for some gratitude training by intentionally slowing down to see, recognize, and offer thanksgiving for the gifts from our Good Gift Giver.