In the turbulent, often unpredictable experiences we go through as humans, God has offered a path to a more full and present experience of living: the path of gratitude. We meditate on gratitude through Psalm 100:4-5.
All throughout our lives, we are entranced into the notion that who we are, what we have, and what we do is not enough. We are taught that we are always one step behind where we should be. Never quite complete—achingly, forever on the search for something.
This is, ultimately, no way to live a good, whole life. As human beings made in the Image of a generous God, we are invited towards a more loving, compassionate, and present experience of living. And God has offered a way to getting there: the path of gratitude.
Gratitude is often associated with saying words like “thank you” or with the phrase “count your blessings”. But more than that, gratitude is the quality of thankfulness. It is an attitude towards life—an anticipatory readiness to show, and to discover, appreciation wherever we go.
Gratitude gives us the vision to see who we are as beautiful and complete. In times where life appears gray and drab, gratitude is the cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual practice of seeing life in vivid color. It is the refocusing of a reality always there—that we are divine children blessed and loved by God.
When we practice gratitude, we not only change individually, but also the collective community around us. Research shows that couples who practice gratitude towards each other generate a more positive outlook of their partner, and are more comfortable confronting conflict if it arises. In organizational settings, managers who say “thank you” find their teams to be more motivated to work harder. In short, gratitude is a way to bring forth the God-given-reality that, as Mother Theresa states, “we belong to each other.” And—as we humans are made in the Image of God—as we say thanks to each other we are literally saying thanks to God.
The practice of gratitude is a truly human, lifelong endeavor. When things do not go our way, when we do not get what we want, we are prone towards cynicism, indignation, and resentment. The great paradox and the great challenge is the ability to practice gratitude no matter the circumstance. It is, as writer Maya Angelou puts it, to say in our hearts, "stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude."
This reality is easy to say, but difficult to live. In moments of hardship, consider King David’s song in Psalm 100:4-5
"Enter God's gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Despite the many struggles and setbacks in his life, David chose a posture of gratitude by continually turning his gaze towards God’s goodness and faithfulness. He declares God’s enduring, timeless love. And he sees gratitude not just as an individual experience for himself, but as God’s collective invitation for all generations. Here, gratitude is the ability to remember, to savor, and to cherish the beauty of God’s blessings and the goodness of God’s character—in our lives and communities. It is a way of living that always assumes there is something to be thankful for, despite life’s turbulence.
Find quiet moments in your life to practice a posture of gratitude. In the morning, consider pausing before you start the day—pray and thank God for new beginnings. In the afternoon, write briefly in your journal. Reset with appreciation and kindness; find five things you are thankful for. And in the evenings, do not dwell on what you did not complete—focus and be thankful for whatever the day became. Remember the moments where you felt God the most.
As we move about our lives may we practice the gift of gratitude. Through it, may we find access to a fuller and richer life—the kind of life God intends for us. Amen.
Words: Bryan Ye-Chung
Images: Adrian, Evelyn Mostrom, Bryan Ye-Chung