Gratitude is an important character quality to develop and have in our lives. In order to do so, we must become aware of its value and intentionally pursue it. As parents, we understand this, for we often go to great lengths to teach our children to be thankful. One of the earliest phrases we repeat is, “Say thank you,” hoping it will eventually catch on. After all, no one likes to be around an ungrateful child. An attitude of gratitude may begin by learning to say the words, “thank you,” but developing sincerity of heart is often not so easy.
Ingratitude grows in the soil of jealousy, envy, and discontent. We see something others have, or do, that we don’t, and our greed, selfishness, and self-pity surface through our words and attitude. Especially when we can’t have it or do it for whatever reason. Going all the way back to Adam and Eve, this innate greed and selfishness began. Despite having everything they could possibly desire, living in an unimaginable paradise, they decided they wanted more. They had to have the one thing that was forbidden to them – a specific piece of fruit. Of course, it wasn’t the fruit itself they coveted, but the deceptive promise that they would be like God, knowing good and evil. We know the rest of the story.
It is easy to find things to complain about, and our world is full of people that do, and are very vocal about it. We so quickly forget the lesson the children of Israel never seemed to learn. Murmuring and complaining kept a whole generation from their Promised Land. Instead of enjoying the blessings God had for them, they wandered through the dry and barren wilderness for forty long years. That’s what ingratitude does for you – makes you dry and barren, spiritually, emotionally and even physically.
It takes a bit more effort to learn to be grateful. We must train ourselves to look for the good in every situation; it is surely there to be found. God promises to “…work all things together for good, to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) The truth is, we find what we look for. Those who love God will be grateful. Those who are called according to His purpose understand His purpose in everything is to conform us into His image. He works ALL things in our lives together to fulfill His ultimate plans in and through us, AND, His plans are always good!
I confess I have really had to work on this. The good news is that He will help us if we ask. It all comes down to a change in perspective, and perspective is everything. I am determined that no matter how painful or frightening a situation may be, I will ask the Lord to help me see the good in it. Gratitude doesn’t always come immediately, but our feelings will change if we focus on the good rather than what seems bad in the moment. Choosing to be grateful for the many things we take for granted is a habit we must cultivate. It is true that it often takes losing something, or someone, in order to really appreciate it/them. To me, that is the hard way to learn to be thankful. I want to be proactive. I want to go throughout the day seeing and expressing my thanks to God for even the necessities, like food, clothes, a house to live in, family, friends, as well as the blessings I don’t deserve.
Graham Cooke says that we must “give thanks until we become thanks”. Every day we wake up is a reason to be grateful. Gratitude provokes blessing. When others are thankful for something you’ve done, it naturally makes you want to do even more. Grateful people are happy people. They are positive, and they seek and find good things wherever they look. Thankful people tend to be healthier people. Negativity and complaining really does affect your health. An attitude of gratitude sets you free from fear and anxiety, after all, if God is for us, who or what can be against us? Finally, we should give thanks to God because He is worthy – He has done everything possible to include us in His incredible plans for all eternity!