“Lord, help us to be grateful” is often an expression of my appreciation in offering a prayer of thanksgiving.
I like the word “grateful.” Too often it seems “thank you” becomes an overworked, trite, mumbled expression with little thought or feeling. It’s easy to hurriedly utter an unemotional “thanks” and be on our way.
“I’m grateful,” seems to express more emotion, deeper feeling, and greater awareness. Of course, we can say “thank you” with thoughtfulness and feeling as well.
According to the Dictionary of the English language, “Grateful and gratitude, though, actually come from an archaic adjective “grate” meaning thankful, which derives from the Latin “gratus” (not to be confused with “gratis”), meaning pleasing, agreeable, thankful, etc. It’s loosely related to ‘grace.’”
The Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Massieu defined gratitude as “the memory of the heart.” Expressions of gratitude go beyond mere words or hackneyed responses, but a heartfelt expression of appreciation. Grateful hearts remember their blessings.
The Roman orator Cicero opined that “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.” If you give that notion some serious thought, it’s difficult to disagree.
The English writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton reminds us that “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” In a land of abundance, it’s so easy to feel entitled and take for granted what we have. An unknown author expressed it this way, “True gratitude consists in thanking God for everything when you’ve got everything.”
From the Old Testament to the New, God has called His people to be grateful. Thankful. Appreciative. And to realize that we are indebted to Him and beholden to Him for all that we have and all that we are.
The Psalmist penned, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. –Psalm 100:4-5
The apostle Paul commanded, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:5-6).
This week is the fourth Thursday of November, a day in the United States where we celebrate Thanksgiving. Historically it is rooted in the Pilgrims’ appreciation for the corn harvest of 1621 and has been a national holiday since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it as such in 1863.
It’s easy for it to become just another holiday on the calendar. A day off work. A day to enjoy family, have fun, eat delicious food and watch a little football. Or in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it might be tempting to complain about what we don’t have, can’t do, or where we’re unable to go.
Let’s remember that Thanksgiving is not just a single holiday. But a way of life. An attitude of gratitude. A daily recognition of God’s providence. His goodness. His grace. And mercy.
True gratefulness is a spirit that allows us to change our problems into possibilities. And to turn our troubles into triumphs. Gratitude is not dependant on a certain set of circumstances, but a certain set of attitudes.
Gratitude also leads us to seize opportunities to care and share with others. It is touched by the problems and plight of those who are struggling and suffering. And then to serve and help as we are able.
Either in the midst of prosperity or adversity, take time to think and to thank. Consider your material blessings. Your family. Friends. Spiritual fellowship. Talents. Abilities. Gifts. Opportunities. A beautiful sunrise or sunset. The wonder of God’s creation. Your health. Your hope. And God’s precious promises.
Be grateful. And allow the spirit of gratitude to fill your heart. Widen your perspective. And daily direct your life.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman