One beautiful morning in early spring I awoke to the sound of a myriad little birds chortling and singing outside my bedroom window. As I started gearing up for another hectic day and reviewed the seemingly endless list of responsibilities that awaited me, my thoughts turned unexpectedly to the topic of gratitude and I found myself suddenly wondering if I was a truly grateful person. All of creation around me was rejoicing over the new day; the birds were singing for joy that the sun had risen again and the earth was springing forth in new growth and bursting into flower while in stark contrast I was so busy I hardly found time to enjoy life. What is gratitude? I wondered. What does God say about it?
I began a little research and soon discovered that gratitude is a heart issue; it is an attitude. Isn't it amazing just how many things are heart issues! But back to the subject at hand. Gratitude is an emotion of the heart that is stimulated and stirred up by a benefit or something good that we receive from another. It produces a kind disposition towards the one from whom the favor has been received and a willingness to acknowledge and repay the benefit and when that is impossible the desire to see that individual happy, prosperous and blessed. It's not passive either, gratitude is lively, active and vital to the individual who possesses it, in other words, everyone who comes in contact with a grateful person will know it! That's right, they won't be able to hide it because it will kind of spill over to those around them.
I always liked to think of myself as a grateful person but when compared to the list above it suddenly became obvious that I didn't really measure up. In many of our minds gratitude has been loosely defined as simply saying those two wonderful words 'thank you'. We wrongly assume that practicing their use is all it takes to become grateful individuals. Grateful people definitely do say 'thank you', I in no way want to imply that they don't, the problem is that although we have accurately connected saying 'thank you' to be a way of expressing gratitude, we do not have a firm grasp on the fact that ungrateful people can also use those same two words. As an ungrateful individual I can and often have said 'thank you' but instead of those words making me grateful I have, without even realizing it, turned them into nothing more than a preprogrammed little phrase that is deftly used at appropriate intervals because it is the 'socially proper' thing to do. You see gratitude is not a set of words that we need to learn to use rather it is a heart attitude which spills over into every aspect of our lives including our words.
Rather than focusing our attention on training our lips to say the right things we should instead channel our energy into heart attitude because when our heart is right our lips will automatically follow suit. The lips are only a symptom of a deeper problem. Matt 12:34 says "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." That is why grateful words tend to come out of a grateful heart, bitter words out of a bitter heart, and selfish words out of a selfish heart. Now I want to look just briefly at selfishness, selfishness in both its glaringly obvious and its more subtle forms is one of the key causes of ingratitude. In its more obvious forms selfishness desires the praise and/or gratitude to be directed towards me, thus hindering gratitude towards others while in its more subtle forms selfishness may be too busy to take the time to notice others and express gratitude to them. In both cases we are preoccupied with ourselves rather than allowing God and others to be our focus.
Expressing gratitude towards our fellow men is important but before we can really learn proper gratitude towards men it is essential for us to look at what God says about it and begin cultivating gratitude towards our Creator. When I took the time to look I discovered that the pages of Scripture are loaded with instances and accounts of individuals offering heartfelt gratitude to God in the forms of thanksgiving, praise and worship! The Psalms are simply loaded with expressions of gratitude while all over the entire Old Testament can be found outbursts of thanksgiving, some of them in the most unlikely places. 1Thes 5:16-18 has some very important instruction for us in regards to gratitude. It says "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Now that cuts right to the heart of true gratitude, "in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you!" Gratitude towards our fellow men starts with gratitude towards God because if I truly believe that God controls my day then nothing can happen to me except that which He allows and if I truly believe it when He says that "all things work together for good for those that love God, who are the called according to His purpose" then I can be grateful and give thanks in all things because I know God has a purpose in them and they are for my good. Another portion to consider is Col 2:6-7 which says "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." A few casual "thank you"s programmed into my day does not qualify for 'abounding with thanksgiving' but a heart overflowing with gratitude towards God and man does! "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Eph 5:20
It all comes down to that one simple question, are we really grateful people? I had never given it much thought until quite recently when my preconceived ideas about my own gratitude began to crumble as I examined myself in the light of God's Word. I would challenge you with the idea that the verses quoted above exemplify the verbal evidences of a truly grateful person. Gratitude is a characteristic of the heart that overflows into all aspects of life. I believe that it is a way of life, God's way of life. Cultivating gratitude will totally alter our attitudes, it will revolutionize the way we view life, it will change how we interact with other people, it will transform our relationship with God, it will forever alter the way we think. I will close here by repeating that crucial question, Are you a truly grateful person? My challenge to each and every one of us it to take this question to the Lord, seek His face and ask Him to reveal to us our heart in this matter.
Gratitude is realizing you could never do it all yourself.
Gratitude is recognizing that without the others your world would fall apart.
Gratitude is telling them how much you need them.
Gratitude is letting them know you appreciate the things they do.
Gratitude is acknowledging that no one owes you anything.
Gratitude is always giving credit where credit is due.
Gratitude is taking everything done as a gift, a surprise.
Gratitude is appreciating others and how they input into your life.
Gratitude is accepting ALL things as from the hand of the Father and for our good.