Gratitude

Today’s post is the third and final installment in a series about Gratitude. Read the first two posts in this series: "The Barrenness of Envy and Discontentment" and "Jesus: Our Satisfaction and Joy."

Gratitude. A theology blog for women.

My favorite holiday is tomorrow. I relish taking a day to intentionally reflect upon and consider the people, experiences, blessings, and trials I have experienced in the last year, expressing gratitude and thanksgiving for them.

Thanksgiving is a special day. I knew it from the side dishes my mom prepared only on the day, setting the table with flowery china and silverware, wearing nice dresses with my sisters, and the handmade turkey decorations that adorned our dinner table and house. A tradition in my family, and I am sure in many others, was to circle the dinner table while eating our Thanksgiving feast, each person sharing what he or she is thankful for—a tradition my husband and I have continued in our marriage. As a child, I anticipated listening to and participating in this meaningful conversation and reflection about the gifts we were given to steward well in our finite days as earth dwellers. In what was shared around a table aglow with candlelight, I saw glimpses of my mom’s, dad’s, sisters’ and grandparents’ hearts—the people whom they deeply love, the circumstances that brought good and blessing in their lives, the difficulties that brought about deeper gratitude and appreciation for life—all in glory and thanks to the Giver of life.

The previous two posts in this series have focused on two robbers of joy—envy and discontentment—and the source of lasting joy and satisfaction in life—Jesus. In this post, I want to consider how we intentionally weave gratitude into our lives, and how gratitude helps us to fix our eyes on Jesus as the Giver of all good things.

James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Every good gift in your life is from our unchanging Father. No good thing for which you are grateful is of your own accord, effort, or merit. All of it comes from God. The only perfect gift we are given in this world is Jesus, and our Father too gives Him. The salvation He brings through His blood is our greatest gift and treasure. The rightful recognition that God is the ultimate Gift-Giver serves as an antidote to our pride and notions of self-sufficiency—He is our dependence and trust.

In his epistles to the early churches, Paul repeatedly reminds Christians to be thankful:

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thess. 5:18

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Col. 3:15

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Phil. 4:6

Gratitude is characterized as a marker of a Spirit-filled life:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."
Eph. 5:18-21

The Psalms are filled with poetry of thanksgiving and gratitude towards all of who God is. Gratitude is a discipline we are to cultivate and heed as believers in our daily lives—not just on Thanksgiving.

So, how do we practice gratitude and thankfulness? How do we obey God’s commands as expressed through Paul to be thankful and filled with gratitude? First, I believe we must pray and ask the Spirit to convict us of self-dependence, envy, discontentment, comparison, and ignorance. As we are convicted, we repent and turn away from self-worship and focus on Christ—worshipping Him. As He is our true source of joy and satisfaction, we thank Him and praise Him for His sacrifice, character, and provisions, overflowing from our hearts.

We also humble ourselves and pause to recognize the blessings we have been given by our Father. Personally, I find most of my tendencies towards comparison with others vanish when I pause and take time to reflect on the character of my Father and the good and blessings I have been given by Him.  As I shared in the first post, I have sometimes believed that owning a home and living in the Midwest will bring me happiness. When I instead focus on the good gifts our current, albeit small home gives—for example, close proximity to one of our favorite streets in Denver, affordable rent, a nearby sister, sunshine pouring through our southern- and western-facing windows during the day, only one shared wall with our neighbor and no folks living below or above us—my heart is reminded of the many ways we are blessed to call our current place home, and I am grateful.

An idea my husband and I considered incorporating into our Thanksgiving celebration this year is a gratitude journal—something that will hold what we are thankful for each year on Thanksgiving and allow us to reflect on God’s blessings on this earth in the years to come. My prayer for the Of Larks community this holiday is that our hearts would be filled gratitude towards our Redeemer, the God who has saved us, and that we would take time to reflect upon the many blessings and gifts He has bestowed upon because of His grace and goodness.

Share with us in the comments below—what are you grateful for?