SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Cultivating an attitude of gratitude

Life can be challenging to say the least. Perhaps you’ve said a prayer like this when the alarm goes off in the morning. I hope it makes you smile.

“Dear God, I’m thankful for today. Everyone is getting along and life seems good. I haven’t been grumpy, worried, impatient, anxious, or judgmental. Yes, God, it’s been a great day so far. But in a few seconds, I’m going to get OUT of this bed, and that’s when I’m really going to need your help!”

Of course we seriously do need God’s help every day and all the time, and God is always there to help us. However I also believe that I have a choice about how I am going to begin my day. So I choose to say to myself these words from Psalm 118 each day before I get out of bed: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This is one way I try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in my life, regardless of what else may be happening in or around me.

I am convinced of the importance of perspective when it comes to gratitude, and how choosing gratitude and cultivating it is so vital to our health and wellbeing. Gratitude is literally an antidote to bitterness, anxiety, anger, selfishness, resentment, stinginess, depression, and the temptation to give in to being a victim. Gratitude increases our joy, peace and generosity – no matter what our circumstance – no matter how good or bad things seem to be going for us.

At Calvary Lutheran this fall we are learning about this during our 40 Days of Gratitude. The theme Bible verse we are using comes from Paul. It says: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This reminds us that our circumstances do not produce gratitude. Some who live in very favorable circumstances, are not thankful. Instead, they spend their lives complaining that the good is not better. Likewise we all probably know people who have experienced problem after problem, yet live with gratitude for the blessings they have received. They joyfully receive God’s love and they share generously with others from what they do have. Life’s circumstances simply cannot explain either the presence or the absence of gratitude, because gratitude has far more to do with the attitude of the heart and the intentional action of giving thanks.

Perspective has a lot to do with this. For example, I love to cook and enjoy good meals. But I don’t particularly like to face a sink full of dirty dishes, especially if I’ve put them off until morning. Well, here is a prayer that might change the way those dishes in the sink look:

Thank God for dirty dishes they have a tale to tell;

While others may go hungry we’ve eaten very well.

With home, health, and family I should not want to fuss;

For the stack of evidence before me shows God’s been very good to us!

I call that an attitude of gratitude. I believe gratitude is a choice we can make every day and a perspective we can cultivate in our lives regardless of circumstance It’s not easy, but it’s worth it, and God will help you grow it.

Pastor Jonathan Heierman, Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church


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