A recent trip to the eye doctor caused me to view gratitude in a new way. As the optometrist was doing the various tests to determine my new prescription for glasses, I was once again amazed that with each turn of the machine my vision became progressively sharper. I realized it’s a lot like gratitude: the more we thank, the more we discover what we have to be thankful for. Gratitude is the lens that reveals God’s incredible grace at work.
To be grateful is to see God, the world and ourselves aright—to recognize that all of life is a gracious gift from His hand. I am learning to develop gratitude for everything. If I’m tempted to grumble about all the dishes that need to be washed I now say, “I’m so thankful for all these dirty dishes because it means we have plenty to eat.”
In Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, she recalls thanking God for the fleas in the filthy, jammed barracks at a German concentration camp where she was sent for attempting to rescue Jews from the Nazis during World War II. The fleas kept the guards away, which allowed her and others to study the Bible without interruption.
Perspective is everything. I love a plaque that hangs in my chiropractor’s office. It simply states: There is always, always, ALWAYS, something to be thankful for. It all depends on what we’re looking at.
When my car got a flat tire on a wet road on my way to a doctor’s appointment, I chose to give thanks that I didn’t have an accident instead of grumbling that I had to reschedule. It matters a great deal how we choose to look at things. It’s the difference between gratitude and grumbling.
Pride can keep us from being thankful. I know a pre-teen who refuses to say thank you when she’s given a gift. For as long as I’ve known her, she will not say it—even when prodded by her mother to do so. I believe she thinks that she deserves these things, so why should she have to give thanks for them. Faulty thinking, no matter one’s age, and yet we’ve all probably done it. I know I have.
Speaking two simple but powerful words—thank you—for any bit of kindness keeps the wheels turning in relationships all over the world. Expressing appreciation—in any language—conveys that the person matters.
In a society where everything is available all the time, nothing is special anymore. The impersonality that exists today is evidenced in the way we treat each other. When thankfulness is absent, relationships suffer.
Whenever I’m out shopping or running errands, I hold the door open for anyone else entering the same place. Many times this small act of kindness goes unnoticed without so much as a word of thanks.
Perhaps someone has also ignored an act of kindness you’ve gone out of your way to show. It happened to Jesus at least once that we know of. Jesus healed ten lepers of their dreaded skin disease, and almost before He finished speaking all ten were headed for the city to see the priest. Only one returned to say thank you.
Throughout the Bible people are called to remember what God has done for them. The Old Testament especially is full of admonitions to remember God’s acts of power and graciousness.
If you are thankful for something, say so. Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Saying thank you is one way we convey that.
Cultivating a thankful heart is possible for anyone. You can:
- Give thanks for the small, ordinary things. I make a concentrated effort to thank God for the things that most people don’t think twice about—clean water, my bed, even my comfy pajamas! I truly am thankful for these things, and I make it a point to let God know that I am.
- Give thanks independent of feelings. Our lack of feeling grateful does not change reality—God is good, all the time. When I focus exclusively on my feelings, I find I have very little to be thankful for. True gratitude comes from a heart of love, not from how we feel.
- Look for the hidden blessings. Sometimes we have to actively keep ourselves alert to the subtle or indirect blessing of God. I’ve noticed that when I’m shopping alone with my four daughters I always find a parking place close to the store’s entrance and near a cart return. Coincidence? I don’t think so. God knows how grateful I am for the extra help on these days.
- Thank God in the midst of adversity. While in chains in prison, Paul gave thanks for God’s goodness (Phil. 1:3). One night during an excruciating migraine, I was determined to praise God and thank Him for His goodness even in the midst of my pain. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had with the Lord.
- Put things in perspective. Have you been grumbling because you can’t afford a new table and chairs for the dining room? Go serve in a soup kitchen for the homeless. Find it difficult to be thankful for your job? Spend a few minutes with the people in line at the unemployment office. Do you find yourself complaining about minor aches and pains? Pray for someone with a terminal illness. I find that when I put things in proper perspective my gratitude level soars.
- Keep a record of God’s faithfulness. As the old song goes, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” Several years ago I began a “Thank you” journal dedicated exclusively for recording blessings from the Lord. To date, I have many volumes of these journals filled.
- Set aside daily time to express thanks to God. In ancient Israel, a daily time of thanksgiving was so important to the nation that the Levites were officially appointed to stand in the temple every morning and evening to thank God (see 1 Ch. 23:30). If we don’t make time to specifically express our gratitude to God, we may find ourselves neglecting to do it altogether.
- Show gratitude to others as well as to God. Stock up on thank you cards and use them generously. Regularly let family and friends know how grateful you are for them. Thank those you cross paths with frequently—the store clerk, the office janitor, the mail carrier. The more we appreciate people, the more we’ll appreciate the One who put them in our lives.
- Give generously to those in need. Giving is a concrete expression of gratitude to God. Paul told the Corinthians that such generosity “is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Cor. 9:12). I love being able to give back to God in this way as it serves as a reminder of all that He’s given me.
By Tammy Darling