In a series entitled Everyday, BETTER! you probably expected that “G” would be for Gratitude. After all, the gratitude platitudes are plentiful, are they not? “Be thankful for your many blessings.” “The secret of happiness is contentment with what you have.” “Have an attitude of gratitude.” Perhaps, however, gratitude is more complex than it seems.
If you have ever spent any time at all thinking about your blessings and the things and people for which you are thankful, you can testify to the power of gratitude to change your attitude. If you do an internet search for “scientific benefits of gratitude,” you will find that study after study supports the fact that regularly expressing gratitude can lead to many possible benefits, such as:
- improved state of happiness and life satisfaction
- an increase in altruism and a willingness to help others
- improved relationships and increased willingness to forgive offenses
- better sleep and fewer physical complaints
- less anxiety and depression
All of this would imply that the quotes in the first paragraph are more than mere platitudes, and they are. There is real truth to them. However, despite these well known and documented facts, sometimes it is just really hard to look around at current circumstances and think, “Wow, I am so thankful for this whole, stinking mess!”
Several years ago during a difficult period of time, I read a very short verse in my Bible that I had read many, many times before. For the very first time, however, it stopped me in my tracks. Not only that, this simple little verse made me angry.
…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18
I stared at that page a moment, then thought, “God, my mother was just diagnosed with cancer for the second time. You want me to be thankful for that? My friend’s two year old baby just died. You want me to be thankful for that? My other friend, one of the most positive people I know and a mother with three children under the age of 6, just died way too young. She loved you so much, Lord. Her husband and children are broken, and you want me to be thankful for that?” I poured it all out and held nothing back — all of the horrible, painful parts of this life that were breaking my heart that morning, as well as my confusion and frustration because staring at me in undeniable black and white was the command to be thankful for that hurt.
Then I heard that still, small Voice.
It doesn’t say be thankful for. It says be thankful in.”
That was it — two short sentences that rocked my world. What a difference a little two-letter preposition can make!It says '...IN everything give thanks,' not 'FOR.' Tiny word, big difference! #gratitude Click To Tweet
Yes, there is evil and pain in this world. I will experience it, as will you; none are exempt. That evil did not come from God, but He can use every circumstance in my life for good. While I don’t thank Him for the evil, I should thank for the way He will work through my pain to build me up, to make me stronger, to draw me closer to Him, to work in a way that only He may be able to see at this moment to bring me good. He is faithful, and He will ultimately bring beauty from my ashes.
From time to time, we all get in a bit of a funk and really need this reminder — I needed it today. All is well, there is no tragedy, I was just feeling a little meh… I intentionally studied all the verses I could find on gratitude and thanksgiving. In the end, I am reminded of two things (well, three if you count the fact that I didn’t feel meh… anymore! 🙂 ):
- Gratitude is not just an attitude, it is also an action. I must practice it, which means I must do it — over and over again. Every. Single. Day.
- I can be thankful for the hard stuff because I know that God is ultimately in control. Despite difficult days, I have a peace that comes from knowing my life is not spinning out of control, prey to random circumstances. There is Someone who will make it right (Romans 8:28), Who has a future for me (Jeremiah 29:11), Who will turn my dust and ashes into something beautiful (Isaiah 61:3). (Yes, you should click on that link and go listen to this song! 🙂 )
How do you not only keep an “attitude of gratitude” but an “action of gratitude”? Please share how you have been affected by this simple principle — you never know who will be encouraged today by your experience!
Encourage someone today by downloading and freely sharing any of these image quotes!
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