An inclination toward gratitude

By the time you’re reading this column, I’m sure the turkey won’t be the only thing that’s been stuffed. In fact, seconds are most likely already behind you and you’re rounding the bases, heading toward your third sometime today.

So often when we think of Thanksgiving what most often rises to the forefront of our mind are family, food and football. I realize that many may take a traditional pre-dinner moment where everyone shares something for which they are thankful. But may I be candid for a moment?

When the turkey dust settles from this holiday weekend, what’s really happened? To what degree does the actual giving of thanks permeate our hearts, conversations and thoughts?

If you’re like me, sometimes you need to re-prime the well of thanks giving with a refresher on the value of gratitude.

Although summer is a blip in our seasonal rear-view mirror, there is an image that lingers in my mind from the distant growing season.

Since I was an elementary school boy learning to plant beans in my meager styrofoam cup garden, I’ve always been fascinated by the bending of plants toward the sun as they grow. I remember gently burying my bean, watering it and placing it on the window sill of my classroom. As it woke up, breaking through the soil, it would stretch its leaves like a child waking after a good night’s rest. With each day’s growth, its natural instinct was to twist and turn toward the sunlight, soaking in every warm drop of life giving energy. For a bean plant, this was its natural bent.

Did you know that gratitude is the natural bent of a disciple’s heart? As we sink our faith deep into the soil of the gospel of Christ, we can’t help but be humbled by the undeserving grace God has shown us through the cross.

As Paul said, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It’s incredible that a Holy God, who could not tolerate sin, would enter into the cesspool of sinful humanity, clothe himself in flesh and take upon himself the consequences of all our rebellion. The deeper we dig into this truth, the higher our hearts reach with outstretched arms of gratitude.

Indeed, gratitude is the natural bent of a disciple’s heart. Like a young sprout breaking through the soil, gratitude lifts our hearts through the debris of life that could so easily bury us.

As we grow in gratitude, there are two amazing things that happen. First, gratitude brings altitude to God’s name and reputation. Psalm 69:30 says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” To glorify means we lift something or someone up so their greatness can be seen by all.

Since I became a grandpa, I can’t help myself from talking about my beautiful grandchildren. I show pictures and tell stories about their blossoming personality and antics. I’m so very blessed by and thankful for each one of them. If I had my way, I’d tell everyone how great they are.

When we glorify God with our thanksgiving, it’s like we’re bragging on God. Every time we utter some form of gratitude for who He is and what He’s done, we’re lifting up His reputation before those around us, sharpening the focus and raising the awareness of His awesomeness. Like the core desire of a grandparent is to brag about their grandchildren, isn’t the core desire of a Christian the desire to glorify God?

Gratitude is the natural bent of a disciple’s heart, because it brings altitude to God’s name and reputation.

A second thing happens as we grow in gratitude. We’ll find that gratitude brings altitude to our heart.

When we find our soul buried in the struggles and challenges of daily life, we often find we lose focus of God’s presence and His promises. Sometimes we forget how faithful He is. However, when we choose to pause and lift up our gratitude, we’ll find it lifts our hearts in three ways.

Gratitude reminds our hearts of God’s past actions in our life. Palm 103:2 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits.” We’re prone to forget the evidence of God’s greatness. Gratitude is the antidote for our spiritual forgetfulness.

Gratitude also resets our heart from a horizontal self focus to a vertical Christ focus. It’s the antidote to our arrogance and self centeredness.

Lastly, gratitude revives our heart. It’s the antidote to a downcast heart. Psalm 69:32 says, “The poor will see and be glad — you who seek God, may your hearts live.” Our weary spirit draws us to God in search for His life giving light. Like a helium balloon, thanksgiving lifts our focus up when life wants to weigh it down.

I hope your natural bent toward gratitude has been refreshed. May you have a blessed and thank-full Thanksgiving.

Scott Joy and his wife Linda grew up in the Alpena area. Through their 32 years of marriage and ministry, they have served churches in South Dakota and Alberta, Canada. After returning to Alpena, Scott is currently serving as the Lead Pastor of his home church, Word Of Life Baptist Church. They are blessed parents of three children and grandparents to four precious grandchildren.