Gratitude increases our awareness of the Giver of the blessings in our lives.
Year ago, this scenario played out in front of me every week.
Rick’s car pulled into the driveway; the engine turned off. Upon hearing his footsteps, our young children rushed to the door.
“Daddy’s home! Daddy!”
Opening the door, two blond-haired kiddos raced to him, jumping into his arms with giggles.
Daddy was their hero, especially since he often had a surprise for each of them when returning from a trip. They searched his pockets until their small hands found the Matchbox™ car or the Little Pony™. Each discovery brought more squeals and excitement. It didn’t take them long to realize when Daddy came home, they got a treat. Week after week this joyful homecoming scene played out before me.
Rick was away from home one night every week for several years as he completed his seminary degree. After two days of being with me, the kids were eager to see Daddy arrive home, but within a few months the scene changed a little. Instead of joyful hugs when he opened the door, Rick heard the question, “What did you bring me?” Dismayed, he still requested a hug before they could search for the treasures.
Many of us approach God in this manner, looking for a blessing of grace from the hand of the Father before pausing to give thanks for who He is and for all He has done. It must sadden God to know we only want His gifts while ignoring the Giver.
God, His grace, and our gratitude are closely intertwined.
The “God of all grace” is one of the names given to God in Scripture (1 Peter 5:10). The blessings in daily life such as family, food, or even our next breath, are gifts given to us out of grace. The greatest expression of this grace is salvation through Jesus Christ, freely given though we are not deserving of it.
Grace and gratitude are related words. In New Testament Greek, the word for grace is charis. It is interesting that the Greek word for gratitude is also charis. Grace is God reaching to those who do not deserve His mercy. The response from those receiving that mercy is gratitude. We respond to God’s charis (grace) with charis (gratitude) of our own.
It is important to note a key nuance in the how the word is used. The first, charis — grace — is initiated by the Giver, whereas the other meaning of charis — gratitude — is the response of the receiver. Grace flows from God to us; our response of gratitude should flow back to Him (excerpt from The Grace Impact).
The circle of grace starts with God, flows to us, and then we express gratitude to Him for all He has done.
What fills your heart—gratitude or gripes?
Studies have shown that gratitude makes us healthier. In one study by Emmons and McCullough (2003), randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Participants kept a short journal for ten weeks. One group was asked to write down five things they were grateful for, another group to write down five complaints or hassles from the past week, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative. After ten weeks, those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives and were a full 25% happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints and exercised more.
Isn’t it interesting that the studies point out the importance of giving thanks? Centuries before these scientific discoveries, the Bible gave guidance in developing thankfulness. Everyday gratitude is good for the soul!
Reflect on the blessings of God in your life and meditate on these Bible verses to prepare your heart for Thanksgiving.