Gratitude: More than Just a Virtue

As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, it’s essential to delve deeper into gratitude. While giving thanks is universal, it offers unique perspectives that intertwine spiritual well-being, mental health, and environmental stewardship.

Gratitude isn’t just a fleeting emotion; it’s a way of life. Manala’s study on gratitude as a Christian lifestyle, particularly in the African Christian context, highlights how this virtue shapes not just individual lives but entire communities. This expression of thanks is deeply rooted in acknowledging God’s grace and blessings. This transcendent virtue can and has shaped the whole fabric of a culture. In a world where blaming comes easily, we sometimes forget to be thankful for the good things we have. Perspective of a reality is monumental in our undertaking of a purposeful life full of meaning.

The link between gratitude and well-being is well-documented in psychology. Da Jiang’s research during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic reveals how daily expressions of gratitude can significantly improve mental health, especially in stressful situations. This reinforces the idea of ‘praying without ceasing’ and finding joy in all circumstances.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

This passage is a compelling appeal to maintain a constant attitude of joy, prayerfulness, and gratitude. Paul encourages believers to rejoice at all times, not just during moments of happiness or ease but also in times of difficulty. The call to “pray without ceasing” suggests a life steeped in continuous communication with God, recognizing His presence in every aspect of life. The instruction to give thanks in all circumstances reflects a deep trust in God’s providence and plan, even when situations are challenging or incomprehensible. Paul’s words emphasize that gratitude is not dependent on external circumstances but is a choice to acknowledge and appreciate God’s work in our lives, aligning with His will for believers in Christ Jesus​​.

In another fascinating study by Upenieks and Ford-Robertson. They discovered gratitude toward God is associated with better physical health in older adults, particularly after experiencing significant life stressors. This finding aligns with the Christian teaching of trusting in God’s plan and seeing His hand in every aspect of life, even during trials.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul’s “thorn” has been the subject of much speculation over the centuries. It has been interpreted in various ways, ranging from a physical ailment (like a chronic eye problem, as suggested by Galatians 4:13-15) to a spiritual or emotional struggle. The exact nature of this “thorn” remains unknown, and many believe its ambiguity allows the message to be universally applicable.

Finding weakness and relying on God’s grace keeps Paul humble and reliant on God’s power rather than his own. It’s a profound teaching on the nature of our frailty and divine strength, emphasizing that God’s power is often most evident in weaknesses and struggles.

Another aspects of gratitude translate to all creation paradigms, resulting in a universal environmental stewardship philosophy. Serazin and Emmons’ research suggests gratitude fosters a sense of responsibility toward the Earth. This aligns beautifully with the mandate to care for God’s creation, highlighting how gratitude extends beyond personal well-being to encompass a broader, global responsibility.

Leviticus 25:23-24

“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine, and you are but aliens who have become my tenants. Therefore, in every part of the country that you occupy, you must permit the land to be redeemed.”

All creation is ultimately God’s property, and humans are merely stewards. This passage instills a sense of humility and responsibility in how we use and manage natural resources. Some would argue are the pitfalls of a consumerist culture bent on profits while showing no concern for the waste created. Obtaining wealth at the expense of another’s misery.

Gratitude transcends mere thankfulness. It is a profound recognition of God’s sovereignty. It is an action and a form of life, not merely a way to express oneself superficially. As we reflect on what we’re thankful for, let’s remember the more profound implications of gratitude in our faith journey and its power to transform our lives and the world around us.