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Being thankful makes everything better

Someone said that God has two dwelling places. One is in Heaven, and the other is in a thankful heart. Now, many of us in our growing up years were taught to be thankful. When someone did something nice for you, you thanked them in person, in a note or in some other way. This lesson was an important aspect of our household. However, it was always taught in a spirit of grace. It was never a law. Rather, it was an opportunity.

An opportunity for what? First, it was an opportunity to make someone’s day! Most of us know how good it feels to receive gratitude. Such affirmation is important to our health, happiness and wholeness as a human being. But it is equally important, in fact, a badge of our Christian discipleship that we express out thanks to other people as well. A minister friend said he remembered the first book he picked up by G.K. Chesterton. He shared that he knew a little something about Chesterton, but what attracted him to the book was what Chesterton wrote on the dedication page. He paid tribute to his secretary, “Without her help, this book would have been published upside down!” I imagine those words made her day.

Second, gratitude is an opportunity to soften the world and make it a better place. Dr. Hanns Lilje, German Lutheran Bishop, who was a prisoner in a German prison camp, said that though bitterness and hate prevailed throughout the dreadful place, he found a simple “thank you” made a huge difference. When he was given his meager rations or being chained, a simple thank-you seemed to often pull the guards up short and bring shame to their faces. One night, the guard who had chained him came back and said, “Why do you thank me for a thing like that?”

“Well,” Lilje replied, “You have done your duty, haven’t you?” The guard, Lilje tells us, went away shaking his head and murmuring to himself. Strange to think if there were one place where the power of evil was broken in the camp, it was where gratitude was expressed.

Writing in her book “Gratitude,” Diana Butler Bass notes, “Gratitude is an ethical way of life. It is a disposition, an awareness ­— perhaps the place where we find our truest and best selves.”

Third, gratitude is an opportunity to experience release ourselves!  Recall the words of the apostle Paul to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Here Paul is telling us of the tremendous power of release found in gratitude. And as psychologists tell us, it’s a psychological truth that contrary states of mind expel one another. Paul’s advice is good because when thanksgiving arises in human heart, anxiety tends to be dispelled.

Fourth, gratitude is an opportunity to give God His rightful praise! How often have we heard it, said it or sung it, “bless this house,” “bless this nation,” “bless you,” “bless me,” “bless us.” But in his superior wisdom, the psalmist said, “Bless the Lord.” The late Peter Gomes, onetime chaplain of the Harvard Chapel, expressed this about gratitude, “We do not bless God for our wealth, our health or for our feeble wisdom. We bless God that God is, that we are, and that his promise and love shall be with us when time itself shall be no more.”

When we consider what God has done and is doing for us, an impressible gratitude will simply consume us. The absolute best gift we can give others is to recapture the goodness of God for us. Being thankful does indeed make everything better.