Gratitude is the Heart of the Christian Life

(Note: A revised version of following article first appeared in the Oct. 6 issue of the Lacombe Express.)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.”  (Psalm 136:1 NIV)

Gratitude is the heart of the Christian life.  These aren’t my words, but I believe them with all my heart.  Actually, they were spoken by Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Christian mystic who wrote in the twentieth century.  As he writes, “Gratitude is therefore the heart of the solitary life, as it is the heart of the Christian life. . .”  Apparently Merton wrote these words during a time of solitude, when, upon reflection, he realized how much God had blessed him.  Also, as Pastor Craig Barnes writes, “Gratitude may be the best measure of our spirituality.”  Why is this?  Because gratitude demonstrates that we have been paying attention to the gifts we have received.  Especially the gift of grace we have received in Jesus Christ.

So, if gratitude is so important, if it is the heart of the Christian life, it begs the questions: Am I grateful?  And for what am I grateful?  I recall asking a group of people what they were thankful for.  And they all responded, “I’m grateful for everything.”  But there’s a sense: if we’re grateful for everything, than we’re grateful for nothing.  So, what are you thankful for?  I am thankful for the privilege of serving a small strong congregation in a warm and welcoming city.  I’m thankful for all the rights and freedoms we enjoy as Canadians.  I’m thankful for good friends and neighbors.  I’m also thankful for the trail system of our city and the strength to run these trails.

As Don Postema writes, “Gratitude takes nothing for granted.  It acknowledges each favor, each gift—both big and small.  It also recognizes the giver—the relative who shows her love by giving you a gift; the friend who remembers to call you; the person who gives you a compliment or goes out of his way to invite you to go for a walk on a beautiful day; the spouse or friend who brings you a cup of coffee when you’re exhausted, cooks you a fine dinner, or throws a party for you.”

When we stop to think about it, we have received many gifts from many people, and especially from God.  We have much to be thankful for.  However, often we are too busy to see it.  This is what makes Thanksgiving Day so important, because on this day we are given the time and space we need to recognize the gifts and the givers of those gifts.  So, in this season of thanksgiving, you’re invited to thank others for specific gifts received.  And you’re invited to thank God for the many gifts he has given you, especially for the gift of grace in Jesus Christ.

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