There are some days where life may genuinely seem to suck – from start to finish – literally.
In fact, sometimes we even go through seasons of hard times, during which being grateful is the absolute last thing on our minds. In fact, we may even ask ourselves questions like:
- How can I be grateful at a time like this?
- Why is being grateful important?
- What are the benefits of being grateful?
God has recently been teaching me to be grateful simply for His presence in my life. Grateful because I know that due to the relationship I have with Him, that I can go through some serious crap, but still be more than okay.
Having an “attitude of gratitude” is very important. However, it is a mindset; one that like everything else, has to be developed over time. Let’s dive in to see why it’s important to be grateful, and how we can more grateful to God every day.
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What Does it Mean to Be Grateful?
Being thankful and being grateful tend to go hand-in-hand.The Webster’s dictionary defines them as follows:
- thankful - being conscious of a benefit received; well pleased; glad
- grateful - being appreciative of benefits received; expressing gratitude for pleasure or contentment
Our society today is so fast paced that people barely pause to utter a simple ‘thank you’ when you hold a door open, or stop to let someone pass by, or even hand them something they accidentally dropped on the floor! Even as Christians, we too, get lazy when it comes to expressing gratitude.
It’s sad, because showing gratitude is actually good for our health.
According to Psychology Today, studies have linked gratitude with increased satisfaction, higher levels of motivation and energy, better sleep and health, and reduced stress and sadness. Grateful people are supposedly much more engaged with their environment, leading to greater personal growth and self-acceptance, and stronger feelings of purpose.
So, what exactly does the bible say about being grateful, and how do we develop the mindset of gratefulness that God calls us to have?
What Does the Bible Say About Gratitude?
Developing a mindset that reflects an attitude of gratitude starts with a shift in our focus.
There are so many things that compete for our attention, and distract us by directing our focus to the negative things of life, rather than the good. And, our natural tendency is to complain – about any, and everything. And complaining is the complete opposite of gratitude.
In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing. (Philippians 2:14 TLB)
We can all find something to complain about if we look for it. However, when we shift our focus, and begin to look at the positive things in life, and give thanks to God regardless of what is going on around us, do you know how much our lives will begin to change for the better?
Being Grateful to God For Who He Is
In light of who God is to us – our Lord, Savior, Creator, Redeemer, Protector, Provider, Healer, Shepherd, Heavenly Father – being grateful to Him should go without saying.
The problem I often see is that we allow our situations and circumstances to dictate if we are grateful, or the level of our gratefulness. But, the Word of God teaches us that we should do otherwise:
- Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 118:29 NIV)
- I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17 NIV)
- Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV)
We should be grateful to God because He is God, and He is good. Period! We should never confuse or downplay the goodness of God based on our circumstances or how we’re feeling.
Our situations don’t dictate if God is good. God IS good and will carry us through our situations.
Being Grateful to God For His Provision and Blessings
Apart from being grateful to God for who He is, we should be thankful to God for his blessings that He bestows upon us every day.
We must train our minds to remember that every day God gives us is a gift. And, at the very least we should always be grateful for that.
For in him we live and move, and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘we are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:28 NIV)
If nothing else is evident, the love of God alone should always be a point of focus and something we appreciate.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)
In love, God chose me before I was even born, and destined me for a purpose. I’m grateful for His presence, and the fact that His Word says He will never leave me. I’m grateful that He watches over me, protects me, comforts, and guides me. I’m grateful that He actually listens when I talk to Him, and that He cares about me so much!
We also must be grateful to God for his everyday blessings of provision in our lives - shelter, food, clothing, running water, electricity, transportation, finances, etc.
One thing I like to remind myself of, is the fact that God will always provide, even if it’s in a different way than what I had in mind.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalms 107:8-9 NIV)
Ultimately, we must be grateful to God for EVERYTHING!
Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20 NIV)
That includes the things that bring us joy and make us happy, and the things that tend to get overlooked.
If I had to make a quick list, mine would include: my salvation, my health, coffee, music, my favorite TV shows, hot showers, massages, red wine, sunrises, books, challenges that make me stronger, Netflix, and hoodies LOL.
The list is endless when it comes to things to be grateful for and reasons to be thankful to God. God’s love, provision, and blessings are evident all day, every day, in everything, all around us. We never have to look far to see the goodness of God in our lives. Again, it’s all about a shift in our focus.
Being Grateful to God For Others
God places so many people in our lives as resources of encouragement, humor, love, motivation, knowledge, patience, service, support, fun, and entertainment. We have to remember to express gratitude for them as well.
The Apostle Paul was a great example of expressing gratitude to the saints in the various churches he wrote to that supported and advanced the ministry of Christ. Let’s look at a few of those bible verses about gratitude for others:
- We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. (2 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV)
- They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. (Romans 16:4 NIV)
- I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. (1 Timothy 2:1 NIV)
- I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:16 NIV)
If you were to stop for a moment and just go through the contact list in your phone and think about who makes you laugh the most, who is always there in cases of emergency, who always knows the right advice to give you, or who provides you an on-going service, I’m sure you would come up with a ton of people that you are grateful for.
Anyone from your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, neighbors, best friends, and co-workers, to your pastor, hair dresser, mail man, baseball coach, mechanic, and accountant can be recipients of your expressions of gratitude.
How to Express Gratitude to God and Others
Having the attitude or mindset of gratitude is one thing, but expressing that gratefulness is quite another. Let’s look specifically at how to be grateful.
Being Grateful Through Prayer
One way to express gratitude to God is through prayer. In fact, whenever we pray, we should approach God with thanksgiving. He wants us to show our gratitude. In fact, He welcomes it.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
When was the last time you spent some time just thanking God without making any requests? I challenge you to try it. And if you have, do it more often!
Even when Daniel was facing being thrown into the lion’s den, he didn’t go into panic mode, or start looking for his own solution. He prayed and gave thanks to God per his usual custom:
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:10 NIV)
You see, for Daniel, an attitude of gratitude was a normal routine for him. If we start to shift our focus in the midst of life’s toughest circumstances, our attitude can begin to change as well. Gratitude can become our knee-jerk reaction, even in the midst of trials.
I had a literal $1,000 situation once where I had to make a mindset choice. I could either complain and be frustrated all day about the fact that I had to deplete my savings for unexpected car repairs. Or, I could be grateful to God that I had the $1,000 in my savings to take care of the emergency in the first place. It’s all about perspective.
Another way to express gratitude through prayer is by praying for the people in your life that you appreciate. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for people is to spend some time earnestly praying for them.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. (1 Thessalonians 1:2)
So often when people share their issues or problems with us, we simply tell them ‘I’ll pray for you’. Sometimes we do remember to pray for them, but sometimes we also forget. One of the things I’ve been challenging myself with lately, is taking a few minutes to stop right there in the moment and pray with the person. Gestures like that are surprising and they go a long way with people, because they know you genuinely care.
When we take time to regularly give thanks to God in prayer, and pray for others, it humbles us, and it reflects a heart of gratitude.
Being Grateful Through Praise
Praise is one of the most prevalent expressions of gratitude mentioned in the bible. Depending on what version of the bible you’re reading, the word “praise" is used more than 300 times!
Praise is the warm expression of approval or admiration for someone or something.
So how exactly do we praise God? Well, the good news is, that praise doesn’t have to look a certain way, and you don’t have to be in church or a religious setting to express it:
- In the fourth year the entire crop must be consecrated to the Lord as a celebration of praise. (Leviticus 19:24 NLT)
- Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:6 NIV)
- Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. (Psalm 95:1-2 NIV)
- Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4 NIV)
- Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. (Psalm 105:1-3 NIV)
- Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. (Jeremiah 20:13 NIV)
- And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. (2 Samuel 6:14-15 NLT)
- When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. (Luke 19:37 NIV)
- Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NIV)
- Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. (Hebrews 13:15 NIV)
As you can see, we can praise God through words, singing, music, shouts of joy, declarations of His goodness, lifting up our hands in reverence, bowing down in worship, dancing, and full blown celebrations!
You can praise when you’re alone or with others. You can praise Him while driving in your car, while out for a walk, while doing chores, while exercising, or while taking a shower. You can praise God anytime and anywhere! Regardless of when or how you do it, as Christians, we are all called to praise God!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:6 NIV)
And because God has called us to be grateful to Him for others, we are to praise them accordingly as well:
- Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. (Proverbs 31:28 NIV)
- I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2 NIV)
- For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. (2 Corinthians 8:17-19 NIV)
- Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)
Whether it’s telling your spouse, or a parent how much you love and appreciate them, or thanking a co-worker for their assistance on a project, or encouraging a friend who is going through a tough time the same way they encouraged you, or congratulating and praising a child for chores well done, our warm expressions of praise towards them can make all the difference in the world.
Being Grateful Through Acts of Service
Another way to express gratitude to God is through acts of service.
We serve God by being obedient to what He has called us to do in His Word. And in His Word, He has called us to use our gifts to serve others, be generous, help those in need, and work at everything as if working for Him directly. Doing this reflects a heart of gratitude.
- Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. (Psalm 82:3 NIV)
- The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:29-30 NIV)
- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-5 NIV)
- You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11-12 NIV)
- Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV)
- This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 NIV)
Just like with praise, acts of service can be done anywhere and in a variety of ways!
They can come in the form of sending an encouraging phone call to a relative you don’t see often, complimenting a waitress at a restaurant and leaving them a huge tip, getting a thank you card for a mentor, posting something positive about a friend on social media, volunteering at a shelter, doing chores or laundry for someone who recently had surgery, offering to watch your neighbor’s dog while they are away on vacation, or taking an exhausted new mom out for lunch. The list is endless!
The main thing is to do it willingly, with a heart of gratitude towards God or the person.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23 NLT)
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)
Being grateful often makes us willing to sacrifice time or money and go the extra mile, even when no one is requiring it of us.
Be Grateful to God Every Day!
Now that we have a better understanding of what being grateful means, what the bible says about it, and how to be grateful to God and others, it’s time to put it all into practice.
As we have seen in Scripture, it is evident, that being grateful and giving thanks is not just a seasonal thing to do on Thanksgiving Day. It is something we should be doing every day, through all seasons of life.
Did you know that giving thanks in all circumstances is actually God’s will for us?
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)
Striving to make gratitude a discipline, something that we focus on and practice in a deliberate way, can change us and our relationships significantly!
So here are my top three strategies for enhancing gratitude daily that I dare you to try.
1. Pray for a Shift in Your Mindset - People often say 'things can’t get any worse’. Well, I beg to differ, because things could absolutely be worse than they are. I guarantee you, at any given moment, someone, somewhere, is suffering or going through something far beyond what you are experiencing. That’s not to downplay your pain, situation, or circumstances. However, we have to stop allowing the not so good things going on in our lives to overshadow the goodness of God in our lives.
Spend some time earnestly asking God to help shift your focus towards having an attitude of gratitude. And by the way, the absolute BEST way to help shift your focus is to spend more time meditating on God’s Word.
2. Count Your Blessings – one of my favorite hymn songs is called Count Your Blessings. Part of the chorus says: “count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done!” I promise you, when you start to actually count your blessings you will have very little time to complain and be stressed about all the crap going on in your life!
I just had one of the most emotionally challenging weeks that I’ve had in a long time, where I literally cried or had some sort of ‘meltdown moment’ every single day. At surface level most would count this as a bad week, but when I looked back and reflected, I realized how many amazing things actually happened to me this week – including a major answer to prayer that I almost completely overlooked because I was so focused on the one bad situation that had effected me emotionally.
Every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, take some time to just give God praise by literally naming out loud all the things you are grateful for. You can even start a gratitude journal!
3. Look for Ways to Actively Practice Gratitude – Although this will look different for everyone, we must find ways to build a regular gratitude routine (daily, weekly, or monthly). It can include things like: visiting your parents more often, calling your pastors/ministers to tell them how much you appreciate their teaching, texting a friend to see if they need help with anything, or spending an uninterrupted day with your kids.
In order to cultivate a heart of gratitude we must be intentional every day about focusing on all the amazing things God is doing in our lives.
Remember gratitude is not only something God says we should have towards him and others, but it is also good for us. Don’t forget the physical benefits (better mood, focus, sleep, etc.) that we can reap when we pursue an attitude of gratitude consistently.
So lets do ourselves a favor by walking in obedience to God’s Word and making it a priority each and every day to be more grateful – to God and to others.
God has been way too good to us, for us to be ungrateful.
Additional Resource: Gratitude Coloring Book
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