Are We Grateful?
Back in June, I wrote about kindness being a disposition, not a series of acts. This week being Thanksgiving, I want to do the same with gratitude. In truth, I think this applies to all Christlike attributes; Christ “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) not because he knew all the right things to say and do, but because that was a natural part of his being. His disposition, the person he was down to the root of his soul, was good, and so good acts naturally followed.
To understand what it means to have the disposition of gratitude, we should look at Job, who in one way demonstrates gratitude better than anyone else in the scriptures. When great misfortune strikes him, leaving much of his family dead, his estate in shambles, and his friends against him, he declares, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Job is in essence giving thanks to the Lord. In blessing God’s name, he is expressing that he trusts him. He sees what happens in life as a part of God’s plan and therefore does not revile against his maker. Seen in this light, gratitude is not saying thank you, but rather about how we react to what happens to us. And that starts with our hearts.
Gratitude As A Disposition
Consider the Pilgrims. There are generally two things they could have been considered grateful for: God’s power in preserving them in the new world and the compassion of the natives in providing timely aid.
But we might ask, would they have been grateful had things not worked out? Would they have been as Job?
It of course would have depended on their hearts. Gratitude is not as simple as saying thank you for a kind word or returning a favor with a gift. Although we might express these outward indications of gratitude, they don’t alone mean we’re grateful.
Gratitude is simply not gratitude if doesn’t reside inside of us. And that is something many of us struggle with. We are taught to be grateful for things, but sometimes we just don’t feel it. But does that mean we don’t have it?
Today I will keep things simple and suggest a different type of question to ask when we are evaluating our own level of gratitude: as things happen to us throughout the day, do we become bitter?
It is a question I never would have thought about asking in relation to gratitude, but of late it has becoming increasingly more meaningful to me. There is a level of contentedness that comes from being truly grateful, and when things go wrong, we don’t seem to be as bothered by them.
Now, I am not suggesting this as the only way we should gauge our gratitude. But it was a thought I wanted to put forward on this Thanksgiving week, a different way of approaching the topic.
In closing, consider this phrase: “kindness is how we break down the walls of others.” I would argue that gratitude is the way that we break down the wall between us and God.
As we strive to have the disposition of kindness more strongly, I believe we will feel closer to him and therefore feel more at peace with life and whatever happens to us.