Well, it’s that time of year again, when many of us consider turning over a new leaf. Losing that extra weight, reading the Bible more, being kinder and gentler.
Here’s a worthwhile New Year’s Resolution. In 2023, I resolve to be….more grateful. I resolve to make thanksgiving a year-round proposition.
Ingratitude is deep in our nature. God said of His people in Hosea 13:6, “When I fed them, they were satisfied: when they were satisfied, they became proud: then they forgot me.”
That is a common pattern—that we forget God because we don’t think we need Him. But every beat of the human heart is courtesy of Jesus Christ. We do indeed need Him. And a key way to acknowledge that is to give Him thanks.
I read an interesting book recently. It’s called A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life. Written by author John Kralik, it was a bestseller in 2010, but I had never heard of it until recently.
He tells how he was very depressed about his life until he learned to be more grateful. His career as a lawyer was in a nose dive. He was going through his second divorce, and he was living in shabby little apartment, with his mattress on the floor under a noisy air conditioner.
But what turned Kralik’s life around was the unshakeable conviction to become more thankful. Someone told him, “Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want.”
Soon thereafter, he embarked on a mission to regularly write sincere thank you notes to people who had done something kind to him. He ended up writing more than 700 of these notes, and it changed his life.
He concludes: “At the risk of making an unscientific and directly moral statement, I will say that writing thank-you notes is a good thing to do and makes the world a better place. It also made me a better man. More than success or material achievement, this is what I sought.”
Grateful people, which I’m evermore striving to be, focus more on what they have, not what they lack. And they express that gratitude to God and others.
I recently saw an editorial posted in an online health publication, called “Neuroscience Reveals: Gratitude Literally Rewires Your Brain to be Happier.”
The authors cite a 2015 scientific study, and ask, “When you say, ‘thank you,’ do you really mean it or is it just politeness to which you give little attention? Neuroscientists have found that if you really feel it when you say it, you’ll be happier and healthier. The regular practice of expressing gratitude is not a New Age fad; it’s a facet of the human condition that reaps true benefits to those who mean it.”
The 2015 researchers found that a group that actively practiced gratitude experienced happier results. The researchers even found that gratitude positively impacts our brains, physiologically.
Here is 21st century technology telling us: Giving thanks is good for you. Wait a minute, the Bible beat these researchers by 2000 years. Paul said to give thanks in all circumstances.
So how do we become more grateful? Well, someone noted that to thank, you need to think. We need to think about what God has done for us and to thank Him for it.
It’s great to keep a daily journal of things you are grateful for. Every day, especially during morning exercise, I try to come up with a list of a hundred things that I thank God for. It really rejuvenates my spirit.
One man who represents gratitude as a way of life is George Washington, “the indispensable man” who helped us become a free nation. There were many challenges that the “father of our country” experienced in the difficulties of leading a ragtag army of farmers and merchants against the strongest fighting force in the world at that time.
On repeated occasions, Washington saw God’s hand at work. He said no one should be more grateful than the citizens of this country for the freedom God has bestowed upon us. On one occasion he said an American is “worse than an infidel” if they refuse to acknowledge what God has done for us.
In our nation’s first Thanksgiving proclamation under his administration, Washington declared, “[I]t is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits.”
I think making gratitude a way of life (in 2023 and beyond) is a worthy goal to strive for. Says an old prayer from a Puritan divine: “Oh, God, You’ve given me so many things. Please give me one more thing: a grateful heart.”