Throughout scripture we are challenged to practice gratitude over and over again. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, a very well known passage of the Bible, says;“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
There’s no escaping the importance of gratitude when we’re told to ‘rejoice always’ and ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. You can find a similar challenge in James 1:2-4; “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Some days staying in a posture of praise and gratitude can seem easy. God is so good to us after all. When we’re feeling loved, known and looked after by our creator God, gratitude can spill out of us effortlessly. But, what about the other times? The days when everything feels like a struggle and we can hardly face what we have in front of us. The days when we feel stressed, alone or afraid. Days like these are a reality of life and yet we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances.
Why we should prioritize practicing gratitude
We will all face situations we’re not thankful for. Whether that’s financial trouble, health problems, grief or heartbreak. There are endless things we face in this life that are hard to give thanks for. Why should we prioritize practicing gratitude, even in those difficult times, as Paul, James and many others in scripture tell us?
James gives us one answer in verse 4 of chapter 1 “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James writes that facing trials and tests of our faith produces perseverance, which in turn matures us. It’s this maturing that should help us consider all trials a joy. Some Biblical translations use the word ‘endurance’ instead of perseverance’ and ‘made perfect’ instead of ‘mature and complete’. What James is saying here, then, is that every trial and test is part of the refining, transformative process God leads us on to become more like Him. To, in essence, be ‘made perfect’.
In his letter to Thessalonica, Paul gives us another reason to practice gratitude; “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s God’s will for us to give thanks in all circumstances, not just the easy circumstances or the good ones, but in all of them. This is challenging but clear. We must keep our trust in the goodness of God and in the journey that God is taking us on, to be more like Him, and practice gratitude every day.
The truth that makes gratitude come easily
The truth that makes being grateful easy can be so overwhelming, so hard to absorb that it can often lose its impact on us. The amazing truth is that we are loved and cared for by the creator of the universe. We were saved by a loving father who sacrificed His own son so He could be one with us again. And the truth is that God would have done all of it just to save one of us, just to save you. Now that is overwhelmingly good news!
If we can manage to let just one fraction of that truth sink into us and really, truly, believe it, then practicing gratitude becomes less of a discipline and more of a natural response. Even on the incredibly tough days.
Easy ways to keep up your gratitude practice throughout the day
Turning gratitude into a habit is one of the easiest ways of making sure you spend your days giving thanks and rejoicing. Embracing a few gentle disciplines that encourage gratitude can help remind us of the amazing truth that we are loved without exception.
Here are some ways that you can start to build gratitude into your daily disciplines:
Try a gratitude journal
Starting a gratitude journal is an incredibly easy and effective way to stretch your gratitude muscles. It also gives you a great excuse to buy a beautiful new notebook if you want.
Start with a simple gratitude journal exercise like writing down three things you’re thankful for everyday. You can jot these down first thing, before you get out of bed or add them to a note on your phone while you wait for your coffee order. It doesn’t have to take long and you can thank God for the simplest, smallest things like getting great feedback from your boss or discovering a new book that you love.
James 1: 17 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” This is a great reminder that every good thing comes from God, even the tiny good things. So, don’t be embarrassed to fill your gratitude journal with thanks for the simple, everyday things.
Start a gratitude group
Starting an informal gratitude group with a friend or two is a great way to encourage your growing gratitude habit. Find a couple of friends who also love the idea of being more grateful day-to-day, set up a group message and on one day, every week, share something you’re thankful for with the group. The accountability of doing it with others means it’s a habit you’re less likely to give up and it’s so encouraging to hear what other people are grateful for too.
Turn a challenge into a grateful prayer
Now, this one’s tricky but it’s so good for the soul. Every time you find yourself dwelling on something difficult or hurtful that’s challenging you, say a prayer of gratitude. Saying a quick thank you to God, for the good work you trust He is doing in you through that challenge, can be a powerful way of shifting your outlook.