The basic definition of gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Huh. Several advisers say that you will be happier if you write in a gratitude journal for five minutes every day in order to lift your spirits. Huh. But this simplistic definition and minimal worldly strategy miss the point of gratitude entirely. Gratitude is not about me, how I feel, or what I have.
So what is the point of gratitude? After examining what God says about gratitude in the Bible, focusing especially on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, let me show you Five Key Elements of Gratitude:
1. Give thanks – We are told repeatedly in Scripture to give thanks (1 Chronicles 16:8; 49 times in the Psalms; Isaiah 25:1; Jeremiah 33:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Hebrews 13:15). Jesus, the apostle Paul and the heavenly beings in Revelation all model this action of giving thanks. It is a command of action.
2. To God – James 1:17 reads, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” Since God, the Creator of the universe, gives us everything we have, our gratitude should be directed to Him.
3. For everything – Everything includes the good and the bad. I can assure you I have not felt grateful for trials, but when I practice expressing gratitude to God, my focus shifts from the difficult, temporary circumstances to my Savior, my rock, my helper Jesus Christ, so that I can have wisdom, eternal perspective, endurance and joy in the midst of sorrow.
4. Why give thanks? The purpose of gratitude is to worship God in truth. He deserves our gratitude for everything. 1 Thessalonians reminds us that when we give Him thanks, we are doing His will.
5. So what’s in it for me? Yes, we are blessed when we give thanks. First, giving thanks sets my mind on truth, giving me wisdom and perspective. Giving thanks is a matter of obedience, so if I love God, I will delight in obeying Him in this commanded action. Finally, gratitude is an antidote to help fight off sins including grumbling, laziness and most especially pride.
Got gratitude? You don’t have to feel it; you just need to do it.