“God of Love and Life, thank you for this day, and for this good life, that you have awoken us to it and given us all we need to sustain ourselves and given us people who love us.”
I say these same words week in and week out during the prayers of the people. I cannot put my gratitude in any larger context: I am grateful to be alive. I did not choose to be alive to start with, but I am glad to be. I was not guaranteed to wake up this morning, but I am glad I did.
It is not out of laziness that I repeat myself. I want to carve these words into your ears, into your mind. I want you to have these words in your pocket and at the ready. Gratitude changes people and situations, dramatically, quickly, and for the better. I want gratitude to change you.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Science backs up wisdom on gratitude. A variety of studies of gratitude reveal its many practical benefits: improved sleep and mood, stronger relationships, mental health, etc. Gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. For our own well-being, then, to practice gratitude is better than eating bran!
Gratitude has powerful spiritual impact, too: it re-orients us. Choosing to be purposefully and tangibly thankful changes how we perceive our possessions, opportunities, challenges, obligations, and options. Suddenly, fault and guilt are wiped away. We focus on what we have, not what we lack.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. ~1 Timothy 4:4-5
That we are alive to begin with is God’s doing. All that we have we are given by God, by gift or opportunity to earn. The people who love us do so despite our best efforts, not because of them. Be honest. So their love, too, is a gift. Even being grateful will yield gifts of its own: humility and perspective.
If you can pray the words I say every week, that is a good start. Martin Luther encourages us to give thanks for our baptism the first time we encounter water each day (which sometimes is filling the dog dish). Here are three practical suggestions I myself use everyday:
Before you get out of bed, list three things you are grateful for.
Be specific. “I am thankful for food” is good. “I am thankful it is strawberry season again and there are fresh ones in the fridge” is better.
Thank someone out loud. For the small or big things others do for you, take a moment to appreciate them to their faces.
Thank you, KOG, for supporting me in my ministry and for making this congregation a place where God’s love is lived out.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is only fitting, because your faith is growing greatly, and the love of each one of you toward one another increases ever greater. ~2 Thessalonians 1:3