November 25, 2018

An Exploration of Gratitude



”It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.”--Lamentations 3:22-24 (KJV)

It’s a season for gratitude. Last Thursday was Thanksgiving, and Christmas is on the way. A simple definition of the term might be, “showing appreciation through words and actions, “or, “saying ‘Thank you’.”

Is that all there is to it? If that’s the case, how is it possible to feel thankful when the world is in a mess? How can an individual feel appreciative, if every day is a struggle financially, mentally, or physically?

A Deeper Examination of Gratitude

Truthfully, hard times are when we need thankfulness the most. It brings light back into our lives.

How does that work? This positivepsychologyprogram.com article gives some ideas—with added commentary:

Gratitude helps us realize there’s still good happening despite the wildfires, shootings, and other catastrophes. The world survives thanks to people who do selfless acts. 
Divine intervention also boosts our lives as noted in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (KJV)
The psalmist was probably writing about having gratitude despite the many enemies coming against him, including his own weaknesses. For the modern person, this may translate to the following:
  • Unexpected wisdom
  • Boosted Strength (physical or spiritual)
  • Protection during times of danger, including unseen danger
  • Unanticipated provision

What Gratitude Isn’t

Psalm 23 does not say that God only helps us at random times. He is always with us, even in our most traumatic hours.  That’s the main reason to be thankful. In fact, no matter if the ancient Israelites were living in slavery, or in freedom, they were commanded to observe a number of fasts and celebrations in memory of various victories of the past. These are still honored today.

In the end, our level of gratitude should not reflect only how we have, or haven’t, gotten everything we currently want or need. It’s not just about possessions. This positive emotion is not just about drastic, positive changes in our circumstances.

If that were the case, few individuals would ever feel grateful. In addition, by that standard, Hollywood stars should be some of the most grateful people on Earth. They’re not. Many of them are quite dysfunctional and unhappy. The supermarket tabloid magazines are proof of that.

What Gratitude Is

Gratitude can be felt toward another person, or to God. It’s an emotional response to something not intentionally sought after, earned, or deserved.

It’s a positive emotion felt after being the beneficiary of some gift. Maybe the receiver of the present doesn’t have the means to repay the giver of it.

It can be much bigger than “I was finally able to buy those shoes I wanted.” It has to do with something we’re given that we couldn’t have given ourselves. For instance, “Mom bought me those shoes I couldn’t afford, and I didn’t even ask her! I’m going to wear them with my best dress.”

My Conclusion

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”—Amy Collette from shutterfly.com
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“As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.”—James E. Faust from shutterfly.com

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What are you grateful for today?