No matter how terrible you think your present situation may be, rest assured that at least 5 billion people would trade places with you—no questions asked—in an instant! According to census data, the world has nearly 7 billion people living on it. Of these, 80 percent, or some 5.6 billion people, live on less than ten dollars a day. Two and a half billion people live on less than 2.5 dollars a day. Yes, the world can be a cruel and desperate place; even so, billions of people around the world would be most willing to trade their problems for yours sight unseen! Think about this these things the next time you feel like murmuring or complaining. The truth is we have almost every reason to give thanks and almost none to complain.
I define gratitude as a conscious way of living where one remains alert for opportunities of expressing appreciation, thankfulness and praise to God and others for the people places and things in their lives. Grateful people realize that every breath is a gift of the Lord and that all we have is a gift of His mercy and grace. A grateful person doesn’t take the kindnesses of others for granted. They notice the little things as well as big things.
Gratitude lives with eyes wide open and constantly says “Thank You!”
A grateful person has an awareness that blessings are everywhere around us. People without an attitude of gratitude take people places and things in their lives for granted. They hardly notice the great abundance about them. A grateful person doesn’t need to be reminded of their blessings—they notice them as they occur. They live in amazement as they experience the rich blessings of family, friends, relationships, work, health and spiritual blessings. And, as they experience these blessings, they cannot help but respond in thankfulness to their God and those about them.
Gratitude is a new way of living
Imagine a new life based in gratitude. The first thing in the morning as you wake up and open your eyes, you thank God for protecting you during the night and blessing you with sleep. You thank God for the bed you slept in and the roof that covers your head. As you bathe, you thank God for the clean water and soap—so many people don’t have these things you know. As you put on your clothes, you thank God for the fact that you have clothes to wear. You thank God for your education, work, and relationships. You thank God for the transportation you have; and, as you travel to your first appointment of the day, you thank Him for the beauty that you see around you. You thank God for each person he brings before you during the day and you thank him for the acts of kindnesses that others show you as well as the acts that you can show to others. As you go to bed, you thank God for another day of care and blessings.
There are three ways we may receive something.
Gratitude is an attitude we carry as we receive God’s wonderful gifts. Sadly, many people go through life unaware of the blessings God has given them. To hear them pray you’d think God never did a thing for them. They are always aware of needs that aren’t being met and focusing upon what they don’t have. These people take much of their life for granted—never stopping to say thank you. Like the ten lepers Jesus healed, only one of them returned to say thanks. The other nine were wrapped up in their own affairs. We can be like these people as well.
Others receive with arrogance. They seem to expect good things to come their way. They blame God and act indignant if their lives don’t go as they think it should. Their prayers, if they pray at all, instruct God about how He should best go about meeting their needs. It’s as if they see God as some coin operated being who should do as they ask; but, a grateful heart and arrogance cannot exist in the same place.
The third way we can receive God’s blessings is with awareness and thankfulness. This is what God desires of us. He wants us to become aware of the care he bestows on each of us. As we become more aware, we marvel at the completeness of God’s love for us. We stop taking things for granted. We marvel at His nature and the people places and things he brings before us. We feel blessed. We stop telling God how to bless us and start thanking him for what he’s done for us.
Finding Gratitude in the Mundane
What could be more mundane than a daily cup of coffee? Yet, for every cup of coffee there are any number of people, places and things that deserve our thanks.
First we can thank God for the rain, soil, plants, growing season and coffee crop. We should also give thanks for the people who grew and cultivated the coffee on the plantations and farms. And, we can give thanks for others who worked long and difficult hours to create a product for us to enjoy. Further, we have untold thousands of people to thank for complex system of transportation that is to deliver our coffee to the store.
Equally, we should be thankful for the personal means of transportation we used to go and buy our coffee. Finally, we owe a debt of thanks to God, our family, an educational system and our employers for all the skills and finances available to us that we might purchase our coffee. Yes, even in the mundane we have innumerable blessings to be mindful of.
A grateful heart understands the power of contentment.
It lives in the realization that it doesn’t need people, places, or things to make it happy. Instead, it finds pleasure in whatever circumstances the Lord may bring. As the Apostle Paul once said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” A grateful heart feels contentment because it understands the great abundance of physical and spiritual blessings it has received from God in his mercy and grace.
Gratitude is based in a healthy perspective.
It knows that everyone suffers trials; and, whatever trials we are going through, others have it worse—some much worse. It understands that even when we feel fear, pain and anxiety, we can say, as Psalmist David did, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil—for thou art with me.” Gratitude understands that we are never abandoned by God. Grateful hearts have little room for murmuring, complaining, or thoughts of victimization.
Gratitude is based in optimism.
This optimism continues even when as we go through strenuous trials. As a refiner’s fire makes gold more valuable and pure, so we too, become more fit and useful as we pass through our difficult trials. Gratitude helps us understand that the things we once cursed and feared are the very things that make us strong once we pass through the fire. Gratitude helps us see God’s plan through our pain and suffering. It realizes that what appears to be an unanswered prayer today may become one of our greatest blessings tomorrow.