“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
God should be the main reason for our gratitude. David made that clear at the beginning of his Psalm.
However, we don’t act like it. Positive psychology today is promoting it through meditation and journals, mindfulness and the like. While it’s not entirely bad, gratitude can become more of an emotional focus rather than a spiritual one. Here’s my Bible Dictionary* definitions of gratitude thankfulness.
Gratitude: a thankful awareness of what has been received.
Thanks, Thanksgiving: Old Testament – to acknowledge God’s goodness by expressing praise or by giving a sacrifice. New Testament – an attitude or display of gratitude, usually to God.
It’s a grateful attitude we’re trying to cultivate, because you may not get those endorphins every time you express your appreciation. Our thanks should be rooted in the fact that God is good, which gives us a reason to be thankful in the good times and the bad.
Recognise the One who gave it.
During the good times, of course, we are grateful. We’re satisfied and comfortable with all we have. But don’t take for granted the fact that all you have is from God.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
We need to recognise that all we have was not earnt, but rather a gift from our Heavenly Father. A quote I often remember at the start of the day is that “every day is a gift from God’. This helps me to acknowledge God from the start and to thank him for the life Jesus won for us (1 Corinthians 15:57). We need to focus ‘not on the blessings, but on the blesser,’ in Tim Keller’s words. In this way, we can enjoy blessings with an assurance of the One who provides them.
Give thanks for what you don’t have.
In Luke 17, Jesus healed ten men with leprosy (v. 11-19). The twist is that only one, who was a Samaritan, returned to thank Jesus. He tells the man, “Your faith has made you well,” Luke 17:19.
The faith of the Samaritan is what we need during hard times. This faith knows that God is the one who gives us good things. It trusts that God can heal based on what he’s already done.
We need to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is with faith that he’ll provide what you need and that he’ll answer your prayer. So whenever you’re in a tough situation or are in need, present your requests to God with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).
You’ll have such joy and peace when your gratitude is directed to God. During the good times, give credit to God for all the blessings that you enjoy. On the other hand, look to what he’s done in the past and trust his ways in the bad. Thank him for providing for your needs in his perfect timing.
*My dictionary is The Global Concise Bible Dictionary, edited by Lawrence O’Richards