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Have you ever heard someone say, “Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude?” It is one of those platitudes that bring understanding to the hearer. Because it makes sense. According to author Lewis Howes, “An attitude of gratitude means making it a habit to express thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of your life, on a regular basis, for both the big and small things alike.” As Howes puts it, “If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.”
Naturally, at this time of the year; we start to look at our lives and ourselves and wonder to ourselves how we may improve our lot. Or at least our outlook on our lot in life. Because many people believe that it is not about what we have or what happens to us that defines us as people, it is about how we respond to what happens to us or what we have. What our response is to the world around us and the events that occur in our lives does create us as people. How we respond determines what we do next.
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And what we do next determines if we gain any positive change or if we make things worse. I have seen this effect in my own life. I have had setbacks and disappointments. Failures and fallings. I have seen some troubles. And caused some trouble. In retrospect, I see that when I responded with gratitude even though I failed to understand my circumstances or the reasons for them; that I was given some clarity on what to do next. And peace over what I am experiencing. And understanding of how to avoid the same thing happening again.
That may be the most valuable thing that comes from being thankful. Sufficient understanding to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. As George Santayana wrote so eloquently in “The Life of Reason”; Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Although I am not certain that anyone has ever said this, I am fairly certain that those who do not understand their past mistakes are going to make them again. And again. And again.
Where does gratitude place us then? Does it bring supernatural humanity to our difficult and challenging lives? Does it somehow bring Aunt Martha back to life? Or get you your job back? Or bring your spouse back? No. It really will not. Most times the tragedies and problems that we all face on this earth will not be reversed miraculously by being thankful for them. In fact, being thankful when your child takes ill or flunks out of school, or when you wife cheats on you or when you write a completely off the wall report that gets you fired seems counterintuitive doesn’t it?
Is it even possible to give thanks when you get the news you have cancer? Or when you find out that your best friend is moving away? Or your mom was just killed in an auto accident? Or if you find someone stole your identity and all the work you have done to bring prosperity into your life has been dashed causing you to become behind in all your bills and on the verge of foreclosure?
The answer is yes. It is possible to give thanks in tragedy and loss. When you disappoint yourself and those around you. When things start going badly and you have no control over it. It is possible.
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If you take comfort in the Holy Scriptures, and take the time to read them; you will see that people did give thanks. Even when God told them to do unthinkable things. Consider Abraham. He was commanded to sacrifice his own son whom he loved deeply. And he fully intended to obey God. He took his precious child to the place God commanded. He started the fire. He had the knife to his son’s throat. And God interrupted Abraham’s plan to obey. A burnt offering was provided and Isaac was spared.
If you look closely at this story in the Holy Scripture, you see that Abraham worshiped God despite what he was told to do. Within worship there is gratitude. Deep heartfelt and genuine gratitude. And although in this story, a miracle did occur; it was Abraham’s attitude that got him through this incredible test. His attitude was that God would provide. And God did.
So it may be that having an attitude of gratitude actually lifts a person above their circumstances. Creates an altitude of gratitude. Above the pain and disappointment. Above the grief and fear. Above the temporal things that sometimes seem so out of whack and confusing. Above the world and its schemes and petty concerns. Above it all.
Today, when you are giving thanks consider Him who has given us all things to enjoy. And who constantly seeks to bring us into fellowship and worship. Give thanks to Him who is Worthy. And rise above it all where there is order and love and peace. Give thanks to God Most High, for He is good. For His Mercy endures forever.