Confession 425: Gratitude as a Way of Living

As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory. 2 Corinthians 4: 15 (CEB)

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This Sunday, I did my perennial thanksgiving message during Children’s Time at church. You know…that Sunday when you pass the microphone around to all of the children and ask them to list one thing they’re thankful for…hoping against all hope that it’s not something humiliating for parents like “cheerleaders” or “when my mommy doesn’t cook”. The children are usually very thoughtful in their responses. We get a lot of “family, friends, food, God” responses, and those are all good things. However, sometimes I think that setting aside one Sunday (or Thursday) a year to express gratitude for things that mostly make us happy is really not a stretch of spiritual fortitude. Sometimes, the tiny time we carve out to give thanks before binge eating and shopping feels a bit trite.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. I love spending time with family, eating copious amounts of my mother-in-law’s mouth-watering stuffing, playing cards and board games,  browsing Black Friday ads, and strolling around Target in the wee hours of the morning with my husband just because we can. My heart swells with gratitude during Thanksgiving, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to express love and thankfulness to the people around us.

But, as I read Paul’s words to the church in Corinth, I’m reminded that gratitude is not just a state of mind; it’s also a way of life. According to Paul, gratitude is a byproduct of grace that is used to bring glory to God. Think of it this way: God pours his grace into us, which causes us to pour gratitude out. As God’s grace fills us from within, we are able to pour gratitude out to the world. This pouring out of gratitude helps others see and experience the great love of God.

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There’s a difference between thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanksgiving, as the word appears,  is the act of saying thank you. We literally give thanks for a  gift received. Gratitude, however, is the “quality” of being thankful. Do you notice the slight derivation between the words thanksgiving and gratitude? Thanksgiving is something we express, but gratitude is a state of being. In other words, it’s part of who we are. People who live with gratitude are in a constant state of thankfulness, and it is this state which Paul is calling the people of Corinth to enter into. It is this state which we, as Jesus followers, are still called into today.

When we live lives of gratitude, our actions become an extension of God’s grace. Living a life of gratitude means thinking of others before ourselves. It means that we seek to listen rather than be heard. It means we practice generosity–with our time, our talents, our resources, and our presence. It means we seek to see the good in others, and work to bring God’s goodness into the world. It means we forgive and let go. It means we carry the light for others. It means we seek peace.

Don’t mistake gratitude for positivity. We’re human, and we live in a human world. Stuff happens–sometimes terrible, devastating, life-altering stuff. There are times when we are consumed with grief, anxiety, anger, or hopelessness. God’s not asking us to thank him for those moments, that would be cruel. In those moments, living a life of gratitude means simply tossing the blankets off in the morning and taking one step out of bed. In our darkness, gratitude means simply trusting God enough to move into one more day.

This Thanksgiving, let’s do a gratitude check. Are we living lives of gratitude? Are our words and actions pointing others toward God?

As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory. 2 Corinthians 4: 15 (CEB)

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

 

 

 

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