Growing up, my British mum regularly encouraged us to show our appreciation to others. We were often nudged to say thank you when the occasion presented, precipitated by a gentle, what do you say? if we somehow managed to forget. We were frequently positioned at the dining room table to write thank you notes to our relatives for gifts sent from overseas. When returning home from a friend’s house we were duly questioned as to whether we remembered to say thank you. Ungrateful whining and complaining were not tolerated.
My mum understood the importance of gratitude and imparted the need to be deliberate about being thankful. When we cultivate an attitude of gratitude it permeates our thought lives and our hearts, and it makes room for joy, peace, and contentment. Being thankful enables us to live in the sacredness of each moment and not look too far ahead or behind. Thankfulness positively affects our relationships and impacts others who are encouraged and blessed by our attitude. Yet it’s surprising how easy it is to be neglectful of being thankful.
I recall how shocked I was the first time I read the story of the lepers from the Bible in the book of Luke. Having suffered with an incurable and deforming disease for years, they were desperate and despised. How can it be that after Jesus healed all ten of them that only one thanked Jesus? But are we that different? How many times has God answered our prayers and we failed to notice, let alone stopped to offer our sincere and humble thanks?
In this story of healing, I find something Jesus says incredibly insightful.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:15-19)
All ten of the lepers were healed, but by giving glory to God in thankfulness, one was healed and made whole. It appears the act of being thankful—of glorifying God for what he has done—is a key to our spiritual health.
Just as my mom determined to instill this habitual behaviour of thankfulness in her children, so must we cultivate thankfulness into our daily lives. It is a conscious, deliberate decision to find ways to be thankful every day—to pause and recognize how much there is to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to begin, but we can choose to make it a year ‘round discipline.
Below are 8 ways we can be deliberate about cultivating an attitude of gratitude:
1. We can’t be thankful for the things we don’t notice, so we deliberately look for God’s grace, provision, blessings, and answered prayers.
2. We can set aside dedicated time in our prayer lives to declare our thanks to God.
3. We can keep a prayer journal to help remind us of the many ways God has answered our prayers and to document our gratefulness to him for doing so.
4. We can learn to be thankful no matter our circumstances, and even for our circumstances.
5. We can be mindful to avoid adopting an attitude of entitlement, being wary not to take God or others for granted, and instead verbalizing our thanks for the smallest answered prayer or act of kindness.
6. We can avoid comparison and choose to be content, thanking God for all he has given us or allowed in our lives.
7. We can put aside grumbling and complaining and replace it with praise and thanksgiving.
8. We can choose to put action behind our thankfulness by serving others out of the overflow of kindness and generosity that has been bestowed on us by God and others.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude humbles our hearts, and moves us into wholeness, as we declare our thanks and give credit where it is due—to our Father in heaven.