If I’m being honest some days it’s difficult to feel grateful. If you’re reading this, and being honest then you’re probably in the same boat as me.
Intellectually we all know that we all have a lot to be grateful for. We hear all the time about the power of gratitude and how it contributes to a happy, healthy and purposeful life. There have been multitudes of self-help “life-hack” books written on the power of gratitude and a “positive” mindset. But realistically, if you’re like me, you probably spend far more time complaining about what you don’t have, and what’s not right, than you do about what you do have and what’s going well.
Sometimes I just can’t bring myself to have a positive outlook and look at the ways that I am blessed, and at others I’m so filled with gratitude, I can’t help but feel joy and optimism. So… what gives?
What I have found in my life to be true is that these two very different emotions are usually based on circumstances. But, what if we determined in our head and heart that they didn’t have to be? What if we intentionally choose to be grateful in spite of our current circumstance or situation?
Researchers describe gratitude as a personality strength. It is described as the ability to be aware of the good things that happen and not take them for granted. It’s also been shown that individuals who exhibit and express the most gratitude are for the most part happier, healthier and more energetic in day-to-day life. Studies have shown that grateful people report fewer ailments and symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and inactivity. Also, the more a person is inclined to feel grateful, the less likely they are to feel lonely, stressed, anxious, and depressed.
All this sounds great! But… how do we move into being a person of perpetual gratefulness
Thankfully, bring grateful doesn’t mean convincing yourself of some false reality where everything’s fine and dandy. Living your life with gratitude means choosing to focus your time and attention on what you appreciate. The goal is not to block out difficulties, but to approach those difficulties from a different perspective and with a different mindset. 1 Thessalonians 5:16- 18 says,
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Easier said than done though right? Have you noticed that most things in life worth doing are not done easily and with the best circumstances? Teddy Roosevelt once said,
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.
It’s not easy to get a college degree. It’s not easy to maintain a healthy marriage. It’s not easy to be a pastor, lawyer, law enforcement officer, teacher, etc. It’s not easy to keep that job. It’s not easy to live up to the expectations of a family member, friend, title, or role. It’s not always easy to be grateful.
However, the Bible encourages us to cultivate a spirit of gratitude. In Colossians 3:15 Paul writes,
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Paul set a fine example of gratitude himself under some of the most miserable and unfavorable circumstances imaginable. You see, gratitude is a choice we make, as are all the virtues discussed in Scripture. Love is an act of the will. Joy is an act of the will. Peace is an act of the will. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all choices we make in spite of the world around us and the feelings raging inside us at any given moment.
Circumstances bear weight in the temporal, our gratitude and demeanor towards God and His blessings for us bear a weight in Eternity.
Joshua 24:15 says,
Choose you this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord
I choose to believe, even when doubts flood my soul. I choose to give thanks, even when my heart doesn’t feel grateful. I choose to worship, even when my voice doesn’t want to sing. I choose to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, even when I would prefer to serve myself.
How about today, we choose to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:18,
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 106:1 says,
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
I see no other option but to push my circumstances to the side and to choose to be grateful. Gratitude unlocks the door to a heart of contentment, for contentment is never found in abundance alone. Contentment flows from the abundance of Jesus Christ. In Philippians 4:11the Apostle Paul wrote,
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
What are you grateful for today?