“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1 NKJV).
“I really should be thankful.”
How many times have you heard someone say that – or said it yourself? Why do we sometimes struggle to be thankful? Why is it so hard? And why is it so often reduced to a “should”?
Maybe, somewhere underneath our conscious level of thinking, we believe that being thankful for what we have flies in the face of what we still want.
And we do still want. We want all sorts of things – good things, neutral things and things we flat out know are not in our best interest.
Perhaps we feel that being thankful threatens the prospect of receiving more. “Hey, if I’m thankful for what I have, then it’s possible God won’t allow me the things I still want.”
Although we may recognize that we have much to be grateful for, pausing long enough to actually be thankful – and express it specifically – seems to require practice and discipline. Even gratitude expert Robert Emmons has to work at it. After studying the subject for 11 years, he admitted, “I still find that I have to put a lot of conscious effort into practicing gratitude.”
Let’s face it: thankfulness doesn’t come naturally.
So, what if we took a different look at the Bible’s commands to be thankful? What if, instead of saying, “I should be thankful,” we tell ourselves, “I get to be thankful”?
The word “get,” as used here, implies a privilege that we’re allowed, that gratitude is itself a gift. What if God tells us to give thanks not only because we owe Him gratitude – which we do – but also because giving thanks benefits us? What if this “should” of giving thanks is really a gift from God to us?
Emmons’ research on the topic reveals that thankfulness:
- Magnifies positive emotions, makes us happier
- Blocks negative emotions
- Helps us recover more quickly from life’s hardships
- Improves our sense of being loved and valued
- Strengthens our relationships
This list of benefits means that when I practice thankfulness:
- I GET to be a happier person
- I GET to feel less oppressed by the negative
- I GET to be less stressed
- I GET to feel more loved and cared for
- I GET to experience better relationships
Those are some pretty appealing gifts! The prospect of receiving them gives us even more motivation to develop a habit of thankfulness. Emmons has some suggestions for cultivating gratitude, which include:
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Practice counting your blessings regularly
- Think outside the box when it comes to gratitude
What about you? What are some specific ways you practice giving thanks? Share your ideas, and let’s learn to develop the gift of thankfulness together.