To me, thanksgiving and gratitude flows out of me when I remember all the blessings that come from God’s goodness to us. It bubbles up in my soul when I consider the twists and turns of my crazy life, or when I’m playing the piano, or when I lead worship, or when I take the time to look at the changing colors of the leaves on the trees, or some other aspect of God’s creation. And it shows up when I’m with friends, or with my family, especially now with my grandkids.
Secular research has shown that people who practice gratitude are more likely to share, forgive, and offer assistance and emotional support. Also, those who had an attitude of thankfulness predicated a significantly lower risk of depression, anxiety, phobia, and substance abuse. People who have an attitude of thanksgiving are generally happier with their lives.
And this should make sense. Because gratitude is a byproduct of a person who is more aligned with God and His creation. Gratitude is an evidence of a soul that is becoming increasingly attuned to God. This is because gratitude is a natural response to grace. In fact, in first century Greek, the word for grace is built into the word for thanksgiving. Grace is charis and thanksgiving is eucharistian. Grace and thanksgiving go hand in hand.
The first letter to the Corinthians says, “…the grace (charis) that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving (eucharistian) to overflow to the glory of God.” (1 Corinithians 4:15) The Apostle Paul is using a play on words here, to emphasize that the grace leads to thankfulness.
And this makes sense, doesn’t it? Grace isn’t just the act of Jesus giving Himself on the cross for us. Grace is every act of unmerited favor that God gives us. Every blessing, every sustaining purpose, everything that we have in our lives that sustains and upholds us is an act of grace. The sun in the sky, the food that we eat, the friends that we have, our families, our jobs, and the presence of Jesus—all of these things are an act of God’s sustaining grace.
I am convinced that one of the evidences of a person that is becoming spiritually transformed is that they are developing what I call gratitude triggers. In other words, there are things in their lives that automatically trigger a response of thankfulness.
Let me give you a few examples. There’s something about a sunset that automatically draws me into the wonder of God, and a thankfulness for it. Certain types of musical pieces or artistic works will do the same thing to me. And if you know me at all, you’ll know that apple fritters are a huge gratitude trigger for me.
Perhaps we need to get back to the place in our souls where we are grateful for the small things, like the sound of hiccups. Or a toddler’s laugh. Or the love of family. Let me encourage you to train your soul so that all of these little blessings in life become gratitude triggers to you.
So when you turn on your faucet, and clean water comes out. Thank you God. Or you sit before a meal. Thank you God. Or you put on a coat so you won’t get cold. Thank you God. Or you come home after a long day at work, and you realize you have a home and a job. Thank you God. Or for artists of faith, every time you pick up that paintbrush, or sit at your instrument, or put on your ballet shoes, or express a thought on paper. Thank you God.
So the soul that is becoming more transformed is also the soul that is becoming increasingly grateful. Because the person that is becoming more spiritually transformed is the person who has the eyes to see God’s grace around them—in the blessings, in the circumstances, in the excitement and in the mundane moments. The spiritually formed person is a thankful person. So that grace “may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
So I am slowly learning to not take things for granted, but to be increasingly grateful. In every sunset, in every song I play, in every moment. Thank you God.