This past Sunday we continued our year-long exploration into the nature of relationships by looking at how gratitude affects our relationships. Gratitude is a powerful spiritual force that is often unnoticed and under-utilized as a spiritual discipline. Gratitude, or to use a more common biblical term, "thankfulness" is seen throughout the biblical story (1 Thess. 5:18, Psm 106:1, 107:1 Eph 5:20, Col 3:15-17, Phil 4:6, 2 Cor 9:15, etc.). This Gratitude is unlike the thankfulness that our culture promotes. Our culture's shallow view of thankfulness promotes it as the polite or right thing to do. We are instructed to say "thank you" when we're given gifts or when someone has done a kind deed for us. Most often, when we're done saying "thank you" we "go on our merry way" and don't give the situation or gift another thought. While this is good, and likely right, it falls seriously short of what biblical thankfulness (a.k.a. gratitude) is all about.
Biblical gratitude is a matter of attitude and choice. It is an attitude toward God that embraces our dependence on andinterdependence with God. It moves beyond our culture's simple "thank you" response. It becomes a way of life wherein we practice gratitude in all things (1Thess 5:8) even, and perhaps especially, in the most difficult times. Gratitude is grounded in knowing that God can and will work all things for good- if we allow Him to determine what that "good" is. The sticky point for many of us is that we want to determine what that "good" should look like in our lives. Jesus modeled a way of life that allowed God to determine what that "good" was. He depended on God to determine the outcomes of His life and efforts- "not My will but Thine be done" He said in one of His darkest moments (Luke 22:42). Not only did Jesus show us how to depend on God for the outcomes, He also modeled what it was to be interdependent with God. Throughout the gospel stories, He often was seen waiting for wisdom, power, and courage to live and do God's will in His life.
While He depended on God for the outcomes of his life and ministry, He also did His part in living and doing what He thought was God's will. As such, He was able to practice gratitude in all things. He knew that being in relationship with the Father, and doing God's will to the best of His ability was good enough because God had the outcome in His hands. And Jesus trusted that God's outcome would be good, even when He couldn't see it at the moment. It takes time and effort to practice this kind of gratitude. It doesn't come natural for many of us. Often we prefer to dwell on the negative, rather than to actively pursue the good and gratitude. This isn't to say we should ignore or deny the negative. Rather we need to feel it, accept it, and let God determine the outcome. With practice, the negative no longer needs to consume our thoughts or be our default pattern. With Gods help, we can choose an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude because we know that God has the final outcome in His hands.
Reflect this week:
Who is holding your problems? Or
Choose your attitude.
By Babs May-Clark