The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude. It determines our attitudes and our actions. It changes how we live. Gratitude can turn a life of despair into a life of joy.
This is the power of living our lives with thanks. This is the power of Thanksgiving. Yet, according to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, only 40% of Americans plan to talk about what they are thankful for before Thanksgiving dinner, or even offer a prayer of gratitude to God.
It’s human nature to be tempted into wanting more and more, and better and better without being thankful for what we already have. More money, more stuff. A bigger house, a better car, a more prestigious job. More.
The Temptation for More is Not New
We read in the earliest chapters of Scripture how Adam and Eve experienced the curse of “more” in the garden: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
I believe the sin both Eve and Adam succumbed to, the sin that ultimately led to their disobedience of God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, was self-centered ingratitude – not being thankful for the perfection God had already given them and wanting more.
It’s easy to let the desire for more to take over our lives. It can eat at our satisfaction with the blessings God has already provided. It can create life demands, struggles, and worries, opening the door to dissatisfaction and defeat rather than creating in us a heart of thanksgiving.
When we’re caught up in the desire for more, we forget to simply pause and be thankful for all that God has done and continues doing in our lives. Eventually, we can stop being grateful at all and start expecting more from our Creator. We lose the power gratitude can bring to our lives.
The Blessings of Giving Thanks
Thankfulness has its roots in Scripture. For example, Noah’s first act after emerging from the ark was to build an altar to give thanks and worship God (Genesis 8:18-20). God was so pleased with Noah’s prayers, He swore to never again flood the earth.
Or consider Job, whom even God described as being “blameless and upright” (Job 1:8). Though he had been blessed by God with great riches, Job lost all he had, including his family, in an attempt by Satan to turn him away from faith. Yet through every trial, Job remained thankful, his heart filled with gratitude. Because of his faithfulness, God restored Job’s fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul and Silas always gave thanks to God, even when in prison (Acts 16:25-40). Though they had been beaten with rods, Paul and Silas still were singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, showing everyone around them the power gratitude has to break even bondage.
Gratitude is a Choice
Gratitude is vital to the Christian walk. It’s the cornerstone to a life of prayer. It’s also a choice! And the more we choose gratitude, the easier it gets. The more we profess our thankfulness for our blessings, the more we notice things to be grateful for.
There’s a story in the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel where Jesus is traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee on his way to Jerusalem. During his journey, Jesus meets ten men with leprosy who ask for pity. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the local priest, and they are healed. Yet only one of the ten men return to Jesus in gratitude, throwing himself on the ground. Jesus responds, saying “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
When we pause to thank God for the blessings in our lives, we acknowledge how completely unable we are to provide for our true needs without God’s guiding hand.
Gratitude is Contagious
I’ve found that gratitude grows the more I express it, both in me and those around me. Simply put, the more grateful we are, the more it changes us.
A word of thanks over a meal, a kind “thank you” to a friend or loved one, telling a colleague how much we appreciate their work – all of these and a thousand other things demonstrate how profoundly grateful we are for the blessings God gives us.
Over the last year, my wife and I have had an enormous amount to be grateful for: my own successful recovery from a heart procedure, the outcome René received in the treatment for her breast cancer, expanded opportunities to share God with so many new people. The power of gratitude has strengthened our marriage, our faith, and our lives.
And when we show our thankfulness and gratitude, others notice, often mirroring our actions with their own – it’s contagious!
This coming week, let us thank God for all He has done, and give Him praise for all He will do in the coming days, weeks, months, and years to come. There truly is power in gratitude!
May God always guide your path.