Ah yes, ‘tis the season for taking time to reflect on what we’re thankful for.
We really feel gratitude during the Thanksgiving season, don’t we? But why aren’t we thankful, grateful, blessed, all the time?
We all share elements of our lives we are thankful for—our families, our friends, our jobs, our homes, (perhaps our fur babies.) Having an attitude of gratitude doesn’t come naturally though. Like it or not, we’re born with a sin nature that takes things for granted and breeds selfishness, greed, ungratefulness. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong in our lives. We become irritated, annoyed, frustrated, or impatient. Don’t you just wish sometimes you could invoice people for wasting your time?
When we’re consumed with all that’s wrong in our lives, we overlook the everyday beauty of all that’s right.
The benefits of living a life in gratitude are far-reaching. Grateful people experience better sleep, lower blood pressure, stronger relationships. The act of exercising gratitude heightens our empathy, joy and enthusiasm and fosters a deeper appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. Studies have shown that higher levels of gratitude can even lower the rates of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. (psycnet.apa.org/record/2003-01140-011)
Gratitude is an active choice. Though gratefulness is not our natural, sin-born nature, we can choose to learn how to be thankful always, and how to cultivate and nurture a long-lasting life of gratitude.
In the book of Luke, a story is told of ten lepers being healed by Jesus. Luke 17: 11-17:
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
I don’t know about you, but if I had just been healed of leprosy, I hope to think I’d be running around shouting praises to God from the rooftops. Sadly, only one out of ten lepers came back to give humble, heartfelt thanks to God for the miracle He performed in their lives. This story illustrates the importance of uttering one simple phrase—thank you.
You’ve probably heard when we don’t use a muscle, it atrophies and weakens, becoming useless. If we seek to grow in gratitude, we must make an ongoing effort. Here are some ways to utilize and strengthen your abilities for gratefulness:
- Work at becoming increasingly self-aware of what you are thankful for and how often you show appreciation to others. Give thanks to your store clerk, waitress, the bathroom attendant at the airport. If you are blessed by specific people in your life—tell them.
- Know your values and make choices that align with them.
- Don’t just listen to others, but fully tune in and hear others so you may grow in compassion and understanding.
- Be intentional about having a grateful outlook. Recognize and celebrate what’s good in your life.
- Humble yourself. Humility helps you open your heart, and when hearts open—souls connect.
Know this: As you bless others with your gratefulness, God will bless you. He’s like that, you know.
As we reflect on what we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving, let’s be intentional in our pursuit of living a life of gratitude, not just a season.
Only then may we be thankful, grateful, and blessed. All the time.
Father God, help me be mindful of what I am thankful for and to see Your hand at work in the simple pleasures of life. Increase my ability to continually express my humble thanks to circumstances and people who make a difference in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.