The benefits of gratitude abound. That’s what we learned in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion. Psychological and medical research has shown that gratitude can lead to increased patience, improved relationships, better sleep, and superior mental health, among many other demonstrated benefits. But, I wonder if there are benefits beyond those found in academic journals? How does gratitude affect our experience of God and God’s people?
It’s worth remembering that our position, privilege, and responsibility are meant to bless others, not just ourselves. Giving thanks for our blessings is intended to provoke us to respond to those blessings in a way that benefits others. We are called as God’s people to care for those who are disadvantaged—“the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns (that they) may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 14:29).
Early in my Christian experience, I thought that the Apostle Paul intended me to retreat from the world to spend all my time focusing on my interior life of prayer… Thankfully, the apostolic command to “pray continually” isn’t primarily about developing our devotional prayer life, even though that is important. It has much more to do with learning to pray our everyday life, particularly in the context of our work, where prayer may be the last thing on our minds.
God alone is the source of our joy, in our work as in everything else. Our joys are like a metaphorical tree, where God is both the root and trunk. All else in our lives, including our work, are like the branches, leaves, and fruit. No joy in our lives is sustainable apart from being rooted in and connected to God. [And] because God calls us to be his servants, all work serves his purpose and therefore has ultimate meaning, even when we can’t make sense of it here and now.
I’m struggling a bit with gratitude this week. Oh, to be sure, I have plenty to be thankful for. And I am thanking God regularly. But I’m also feeling heavy of heart because my mother is not doing well.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, so I have set apart this whole week for devotions on gratitude. Today, I want to consider a verse from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (5:18).