Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you and your family have abundance and notice God’s blessings especially this week!
So, at a time when we focus on our gifts and are thankful, let’s look at true gratitude and what that really means.
Robert Emmons defines gratitude as two things: “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” Secondly, he says, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.…”
So, gratitude is receiving good things and recognizing those good things come from someone besides ourselves. And if you’re a Christian, we recognize those gifts come from God – even if they come through another person.
Psalm 31:19 says, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” (NIV)
So, gratitude is recognizing the good things God has given us. And I might add, even those things we don’t see as good in the moment.
For example: my depression. In the midst of it was the worst thing I’d ever experienced. In my eyes it was not good. But coming to the other side of it, I can see all the good it did for me. It allowed me to deal with my past, it gave me great compassion for others, and brought me to the place I am now – which is soooo much better than where I was. And if you are a Christian you know that what the devil intends for evil in your life, the Lord will use for your good – if you allow Him.
So, gratitude is being grateful for ALL things. Sigh. That’s hard. Especially hard in the hardest of things. So, how do we cultivate gratitude in the midst of the hardness? OR how do we continue to be grateful in the good times?
Here’s what has worked for me:
My counselor helped me begin to cultivate a gratitude practice. In the middle of my really sticky messiness when I was so far from having a grateful heart, she invited me to begin writing down every single day 3 things that went well that day. And I also wrote down one thing that I would do differently next time. This went on for months and months. And then she invited me to begin writing down 3 things I was grateful for every morning. And at the end of the day writing down 3 amazing things that happened that day (and it might be as simple as I made it through the day and am still alive). And currently, I practice gratitude as often throughout the day as I can. I am constantly noticing the beautiful things God has placed around me and stopping to say thank you.
Gratitude is a journey. It’s not a destination. And the more we notice the blessings and say thank you the more God will pour out from his heavenly storehouse on us!
If you’re wanting to begin cultivating a gratitude practice but aren’t sure where to start or how it will look for you, I encourage you to check out Ann Voskamp’s book and devotional, One Thousand Gifts. It was super beneficial for me in cultivating a gratitude practice. It’ll help you get started and guide you along the way.