The Gift of Gratitude!
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
Hello everyone! Hope everyone is doing well. So guys, here we are approaching the holiday season. Thanksgiving is tomorrow so I thought it would be appropriate to do an early post on thankfulness and gratitude for this season coming. The holidays are supposed to be a time when we celebrate what we have and look forward to fellowship with friends and family. However, the sad reality is that most people have a hard time giving thanks for various reasons. Instead of the holidays being celebratory they often times are saddening. Many people have lost loved ones. Others have lost their jobs. Some are sick or have sick loved ones, and then some people have been stuck in the same disheartening circumstances without any change and have lost hope of things changing for them. They feel like they are destined to never get ahead and rise above their dry seasons that seem to persist. All of these circumstances can present challenges to having a thankful and grateful heart. Even without something as dire as what I just mentioned I’m sure that almost everyone could find something to complain about. I know I can. But it’s not the best thing to do.
When I decided to write a seasonal post I searched for a quote for inspiration. I came across the quote, by Melody Beattie, who is a self-help author. She said, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” When I first read her quote it came to me to look up the difference between thankfulness and gratitude. Typically I have used them interchangeably, but they are actually not one in the same. Thankfulness is not the same as being grateful. However, gratitude does stem from thankfulness. Let me explain. Being thankful is simply a conscious awareness of another person’s nice action towards you. So when someone does something polite like picking up something you dropped or a stranger holds the elevator door open for you, the proper response is “thank you.” It’s an automatic reply. However, gratefulness is a practice. Though it stems from thankfulness the expression of gratitude is more involved. Gratitude is intentional and is birthed from meditating and reflecting on what we are thankful for. Gratitude expresses that we understand how we are or were affected for our good, and have a deep appreciation for that it. Gratitude is actually discipline. It is something that we have to be conscious of, remain conscious of and put into practice. It is intentional.
For the Christian, the challenge of gratitude comes when we are told to be thankful in advance. We not only are to thank God for his blessings, past and present, but also for the things to come. So for those who have experienced many disheartening things how then is it possible to thank Him and be grateful for the things to come when there seems there is no reason to have any hope at times? Well hope is typically used to mean a feeling or expectation of a certain desire. Most often it’s experienced as a fleeting desire that someone really wants to happen but they aren’t sure it will. It’s a possibility, but not a certainty and at times does not. However, the biblical definition of hope is to be sure of things happening that God has said is going to happen. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. The biblical definition of hope describes someone actively waiting for God’s fulfillment about the faith He has inbirted through the power of His love. God will give you a revelation of something that He wants to do in your future so you can look forward to the future with expectation and without guessing. He’s not going to give you faith for something He won’t do or hasn’t said He would do.
So what does that require of us? Well Paul tells us to thank God as we send up our requests. When we do this in prayer it cultivates the practice of gratitude in our hearts. It grows our relationship with God. Instead of us limiting our relationship with God to reactionary thankful experiences, as if He is just some stranger that opened a door, it connects us to His heart and Him to ours. We engage Him instead of only acknowledging Him. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The requests that Paul tells us to send up are “prayer and supplication.” The word prayer in this verse means an “exchange of wishes.” When we come to God an exchange of desires should take place. Us telling Him what we want and Him telling us what He desires for us. When we open our hearts to listen to what He wants to tell us He has for us, we can then have hope and be sure that we will receive what He said He will do. God does not lie and He cannot fail (Numbers 23:19). He wants us to bring to Him our wants and desires and He will fulfill them according to His perfect will.
The meaning of the word supplication in this verse means “to be in want or lack; praying a heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need that is urgent.” Our prayers typically lean towards being a combination of wants and needs. God promises in His word to supply all of our needs (Philip. 4:19). We don’t have to ask Him if He will supply our needs, because it’s already promised. This is how we can then confidently cultivate a heart of gratitude for God. Not just for what He does, but for Him, because we can’t have what He does without having Him.
Paul ends this instruction with a promise of peace. He says that we will have peace that cannot be understood. Even though our situations may appear hopeless, they are not because of the word of God. The peace that is spoken of in this text is only used in regard to Christians. It describes a tranquil state in spite of turbulent circumstances. When we are presently grateful we are not anxious about the future. We have peace. When we are at peace with the present we then can have clarity for the future. This does not mean that we know every detail. But our clarity of vison for the future lies in the hope that we have based on what God has told.
So I agree with Paul and Beattie in practicing gratitude by fostering it from thankfulness. Gratitude helps us understand that everything that happened in the past was purposed for our good. Even though some really wack experiences might have occurred, good can come from them (Romans 8:28). When we have a gratitude for our past we can have peace with our present. Peace with our present helps us to have hope for our future.
Abraham gave glory to God for what he could not see and what seemed like would never happen; the promise of a son as his heir. Not only was it the promise of a son, but he was also given the promise of Jesus the Messiah through his blood line (Romans 4:20-25). Everything that we need is in Christ. No matter what it is that you feel like you are lacking this approaching holiday season God has given it to you in His Son, Your big brother Jesus Christ, Who is our Peace (Eph. 2:14). He gave Him up for you so that He could graciously give you everything you in Him (Rom 8:32).
If you feel like you presently don’t have anything to be thankful for so you can build a relationship of gratitude with God, start thanking Him for the things that you do want, so that may build your vision for tomorrow. When your tomorrow becomes your today, with the things you begin thanking God for now, you will instinctively continue in your practice of gratitude for your next tomorrow. Take some time to think about what you are grateful for and ask God with thanksgiving for the things you want while listening to Don Moen’s “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart.” Open your heart to what He will tell you He will do for you. Believe Him! Trust Him!