1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever.
22 Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
and announce his works with shouts of joy.
43 Let whoever is wise pay attention to these things
and consider the Lord’s acts of faithful love. Psalm 107: 1,22,43 CSV
23 The sacrifice that honors me
is a thankful heart.
and I, your God,
will show my power to save. Psalms 50:23 CEV
I often hear about and experience struggle all around me.
A young wife and mother with a husband battling leukemia.
A mother to be. experiencing a stillbirth of her loved child.
The only adult child, losing both aging parents within weeks of each other.
A floundering marriage of two wounded hearts battling to be loved.
A young adult beginning her life haunted by memories of abuse.
These are just some of the struggles I came in contact with yesterday.
With Thanksgiving is next week, how can these experiences co/exist with gratitude?
What is Gratitude?
Research would reveal many definitions from a scientific point of view and a spiritual reality.
Gratitude has a twofold emphasis, an appreciation for the goodness of life and the connection with something larger than themselves. I.E. to thankfully receive kindness from other people in the community as well as a connection (for believers in Christ) to the divine creator of the universe, Jehovah God.
Is Gratitude Possible through the Struggles of Life?
When a life has been steeped in suffering, disappointments, losses, illness or injustice, how can or why should we choose to live with the mindset of gratitude?
Gratitude is not only possible during a life struggle but it is highly probable. Gratitude is often strongest during or after a crisis.
The first Thanksgiving was initiated by the pilgrims as a redemptive response to the tremendous number of deaths after the first year of landing in a foreign world. It became a national holiday in the middle of the civil war and was officially designated to the last Thursday in November following the Great Depression.
In good times we become complacent and are less likely to treasure the gifts of comfort and security to which we have become accustomed.
In a crisis, we become acutely aware of our vulnerabilities, searching for strength and security through actions and connections of others. We also have a greater sensitivity and clarity regarding the goodness that is present in our world. This goodness is a light to a heart that is floundering in the darkness of a chaotic world.
The recent victims of the hurricane in Houston demonstrated profound gratitude for their rescuers and the security of the lives of family members. The gratitude was a grounding force that helped the victims press forward into recovery efforts restoring their homes.
How is Gratitude a Gift?
The benefits of gratitude have been affirmed in books of psychology and proclaimed in spiritual writings including the Bible.
Physically, the practice of gratitude can relieve stress, improve sleep, and decrease pain, improving the immune system and even rewiring the brain. Gratitude changes the perspective of any bad situation heightening the focus on the goodness that gives security and connection.
The biggest hindrance to having gratitude is an attitude of entitlement and self-absorption. This perspective is blind to the graciousness of others. In contrast, humility heightens the awareness the redemptive presences of blessings bring in the turmoil of life.
In Psalm 107 David writes about many experiences of crisis punctuated with the reality of God’s covering in that moment. The first verse, the middle verse and the last verse are some of the verses in that chapter proclaiming gratitude for the secure goodness of God’s love. These verses indicate the benefit of joy and wisdom in the practice of gratitude.
The sacrifice of a thankful heart in Psalms 50 is a soft heart, humbly honoring God, open to His leading. I get a mental picture of a childlike person captivated by the love of His Father, resting in His presences, confident in His power to save.
3 Spiritual Benefits of Gratitude
These passages outline the spiritual benefits of gratitude for the love of our Father. The gratitude of a humble heart:
- Instills Power – confidently receiving His power, creating resilience
- Inspires Purpose – lives life joyously and wisely, realizing redemption
- Initiates Peace – knows the presence of God is real, releasing anxiety
Gratitude Gives Clarity to the Reality of God’s Presence
The grateful heart is hope(full) hearted, leaning on the power, purpose, and peace of God in every situation of life. The promises of God never waver, His presence proclaims His promises. The practice of gratitude conditions our hearts to seek and sense, with clarity, the presence of God.
The lyrics of this song, The Presence of God, is an offer of thanksgiving for God’s persistent loving presence giving us hope, healing, restoration, and power, guiding to the end.
Father, release the hopelessness from my heart, filling me with your Spirit. I humbly submit to Your guidance and request that you open the eyes of my heart to receive the freedom of gratitude to perceive the reality your presence. Thank you for your everlasting loving kindness that is my anchor in this chaotic world and my light to a path of peace; THROUGH JESUS CHRIST MY LORD. AMEN