January 1, 2016

By Gary Younghans, LMFT

Clinical Director at Cross Connections

Gratitude is a way of life based on awareness of God’s eternal presence and his goodness.   Paul writes to the church in Colosse: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3: 16 & 17) A life of gratitude knows the gifts are good, they are from God, and thankfully and humbly receives them.

Our relationship with Christ creates in us a new vision and a new way of living. We receive, recognize, and live a life that is given to us by God and it is good. Psalm 103 speaks gratitude from our souls to God:

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
 Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
 who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
 who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps 103: 1-5)

Gratefulness recognizes life not as random events; not as an accident or just hard work. Life comes from someone, one who is good: The God who speaks light into darkness, who speaks life into being, and is Love. In the book of James it is written “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:16-17) In living a grateful life we recognize not only that we have been given good gifts, we also recognize these gifts come from our good and gracious God.

Grateful living additionally recognizes we humbly receive these good gifts from our loving God who has our best interest at heart. When we take for granted or believe we deserve his gifts, then our gratefulness is fouled. Being grateful for something we believe we are entitled to; or that we earned; or is just a lucky accident, desecrates our gratitude. It puffs up our pride, falsely defines our relationship with God, and darkens our soul. Our human tendency is thinking, believing, and behaving as if these blessings are from our own resourcefulness. Seeing life in this manner, we are no longer grateful; rather our lives become opposed to God and are futile. Paul writes in Romans For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.Sometimes gratitude toward God gets mixed up with our own expectations of how life is “supposed” to be and it seems unnatural to be grateful. And yet if we live in this ungrateful state we know we are not in right relationship with God. This incongruence darkens our souls.

Our souls need to be grateful- it is the way we were made. We did not make ourselves nor do we save our souls, however God calls us to have grateful souls the best we can. Our grateful souls give us strength, direction and harmony in every area of our lives. “Forget not all his benefits”… the psalm calls out to us to remember. When we practice grateful living our souls remember it is good for us to live in knowledge that God is the giver, the gifts are good, and we receive them with humble thankful hearts.