Gratitude is a popular topic these days. A growing body of research shows the positive effects of gratitude to our mental, emotional and relational well-being. Robert Emmons is one of the thought leaders in the field of gratitude research. Emmons’ books on gratitude discuss the many positive benefits reaped by grateful people. (I have read all of his books and recommend every one of them!)
The magnanimous list of benefits includes claims such as:
- increased feelings of energy
- success in achieving personal goals
- help in coping with stress
- improved social relationships
- prolonged enjoyment from pleasurable experiences
- improved cardiac health and
- a greater sense of purpose and resilience. (Gratitude Works!, 10)
My own experience with keeping a gratitude journal and learning to cultivate gratitude have indeed produced amazing, life-changing results. I have learned that by giving thanks, I shift my mindset from one of negativity to positivity; this shift almost serendipitously and majestically gives me the grace to see the cup of my life as half-full instead of half empty. (Philippians 4:8) My personal conviction (and not by any means medical advice) is that gratitude is the best non-medicinal, God-given solution to overcoming mild to moderate depression.
With all of these potential benefits to being grateful, who wouldn’t want to begin, develop or grow in the practice of being grateful? It seems like a no-brainer – like brushing your teeth before you go to the dentist (okay, that may be more of a personal pet peeve of mine than a no-brainer, but you get the point). Being a rather pragmatic person myself, I am motivated to give thanks because as best stated in the title of one of Emmons’ books, Gratitude Works!
Yet as a believer, we have an even greater reason to be grateful than all of the scientific and research-based proof that gratitude can improve our personal lives. And that one reason is simply this: God is good. The Psalmist writes, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)
The ultimate reason to give thanks is not that gratitude pays out well to those who practice it. The benefits of gratitude are not to be overlooked or to be ignored. Indeed, God in his goodness has hardwired us to benefit from the practice of gratitude. Science has not created the benefits of gratitude, it has only discovered the benefits that God has given indiscriminately to the grateful at heart.
However, as believers, we do not give thanks only because it benefits us any more than we obey God because it blesses us. As Christ followers, we give thanks for the blessings in our lives because we recognize that God is good and that every blessing in our lives comes from Him. (James 1:17) We give thanks to God not because we seek to reap a reward in return (although we may happily benefit from them) instead we do so because God is worthy of our thanks and praise.
As the liturgy common to many denominations states, “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God” and the response then states, “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” Gratitude is the right thing to do! And it would be right to give thanks to God even if it did not come along with all the other added perks and blessings.
So as you consider the many blessings in your own life this Thanksgiving season, please be sure to remember that the one most important reason we are to give thanks is simply this: God is good!
Want to go deeper in your understanding of the goodness of God? Pick up a copy of my book, Our Good Father today!
Want to learn more about the benefits of grateful living? Watch these sermons of mine: