Gratitude is good for what ails you. It just is. There are studies that verify it.
I recently listened to a podcast on the importance of being thankful and having an attitude of gratitude. It talked about how studies have shown that it is good for our minds, affects our overall attitude, and even improves our physical health. It talked about being grateful to people around us for things they do.
What was missing was how to be thankful when things are going wrong. Can you just make up your mind that you’re going to walk around feeling gratitude? Then when something good happens to you it will just spurt right out of you with a big “thank you!”? What about when things aren’t going so great? What if most of what happens seems bad to you? How can you be thankful when you are being treated badly? How can you be thankful when you just made a mistake that’s going to cause you and/or a someone you care about a lot of pain and heartache?
Learning to be grateful can help improve your attitude, which in turn can help you learn to be grateful. Ultimately, though, that sounds a lot like one of those “Commit to doing this for 21 days and it will become a habit, and you, too, can change your life!” self-help sales pitches.
What concerns me in these “you have it within you to accomplish this” approaches, is that we don’t have it within us to accomplish this. This is man, refusing to see God, refusing to know Him as God, and ultimately, refusing to be thankful to God, coming up with his own foolish, vain, arrogant religion and worshiping the creation instead of the creator. In this case, the religion is humanism, and the “deity”—the creation that is being worshiped—is man—all-sufficient, capable of anything, man. We know we need to be thankful. Even science can tell us that. We just don’t have anyone left to thank, but ourselves. Even our humanistic attempts help, because it is a divinely ordained principle. However, because we leave out the divine, it falls short of what it is meant to be, and capable of being, in our lives and relationships. And, we fall short of being able to do it sincerely and consistently.
Being thankful—truly, sincerely, abundantly, overflowingly thankful—begins with recognizing that God is! In other words, God exists. And, as such, He is creator. He made this world, this universe. This place, and everything in it, that most religions try to deify, is not holy in itself. Sorry, but Star Wars lied to you. There is no “force” that pervades everything. There is no “spirit” or “life-force” in the rocks and trees and plants and animals that connects everything and makes it all sacred in some mystical, animistic way. The closest any of it gets to sacred is the fact that it beautifully and magnificently points to the incredibly powerful, intelligent, and loving God that created it all. And He alone is worthy of our worship. He alone is capable of supplying all we need. What is truly amazing is that this powerful, universe-creating God is willing to be known by you and me. He even promises us that when we seek Him, our search will be rewarded with success! Now there is something to be thankful for! Not to mention, Someone to be thankful to!
When we recognize God as the supreme Being and supreme Power in the universe, and realize that this God loves us and wants fellowship with us, we are seeing what John Newton called “Amazing Grace.” The deeper we move into relationship with Him, the more we understand that grace. We realize more and more how undeserving we are. We realize more and more how abundant and lavish it is. Grace. How sweet it sounds. How sweet it is! Lavish grace. How amazing! Amazing grace. There is something to be thankful for, and Someone to be thankful to!
We are not made to have “an attitude of gratitude.” Why would we want to settle for an attitude of gratitude? God says our thankfulness can overflow through many thanksgivings to God! God says our giving of thanks can abound to the glory of God! God says we can live life joyously giving thanks to God the Father and that we can be overflowing with thankfulness!
Because He is absolutely loving, because He is Love, because He is our Father and we are joint-heirs to all things with Christ, we can absolutely, totally trust Him. He is faithful. If He promises something, it will happen. If He commands something, He does not leave us on our own to do it in our own strength. He, with His command, provides us the ability by His grace and power to do it. We can know that He will use all things for purposes that go beyond the parameters of this physical world realm. In my life and in yours, He will use the pleasant and the difficult, the good and the bad—all things—to help us reach our full potential.
Our problem is we have such a piddling, small perspective of what our potential is. That’s because our perspective is based on what humans are capable of in our own strength. He offers us what we are capable of in HIS strength! Why do we settle for what a pile of dust can do when we can accomplish so much more because He breathed into this pile of dust His very own breath!?! There is something to be thankful for, and Someone to Whom we should overflow with thanksgiving!