Being an artist is an incredible privilege. The majority of people in the world struggle to survive, wondering where their next meal will come from. To have the time and resources to paint, take pictures, make films, or play music is a blessing very few in history have experienced. As someone who gets to play music for a living, I am more aware than ever that I’d better be grateful, yet I am prone to forget, and am often not as appreciative as I should be.
This is in part an inescapable aspect of our fallen nature and our staggering propensity to complain. We have been conditioned to believe that our lives are about security and comfort. Given this, it’s no wonder we grumble when faced with the slightest inconvenience.
The trouble is, gratitude can often be seen as an optional ethic. But as I’ve grown in my relationship with God, I have realized that it’s far more than “friendly” social behavior. It’s impossible to understand who God is, and not be grateful. Gratitude is an outward indication of an inward understanding of the spiritual reality around us.
In Philippians 3, Paul says that we should not be anxious about anything, but in all things, with prayer and thanksgiving, make our requests known to God. I find that we often dismiss the word thanksgiving in this text, but it is of huge significance.
If atheists are right, we have good reasons to be anxious. But God is real, and true hope comes from Him. Thanking God is our way of realigning our hearts with the reality that He is in control, that He provides, and that He cares for us.
While in university, I learned to seek God earnestly, and my whole life changed. During this season, my prayers were consumed with thanksgiving. I still made requests, but I found myself increasingly aware of God’s power and provision, and what I was asking Him for seemed unimportant when compared with thanking Him.
As I have matured in my faith, I’ve made thanking God a cherished discipline, and I believe I have learned some critical aspects of gratitude that are worth sharing.
1) Being grateful is not a feeling, but a choice.
Like all things that matter in life, we have to choose to do what is right. I rarely feel grateful, and even when I do, being thankful always starts with a decision. Deciding is the horse that pulls the cart. This is a critical aspect of any spiritual discipline and, in particular, of gratitude.
2) It’s not enough to think it.
There is power in declaration. We sing worship songs, in part, as a way of declaring to God who He is and what He has done. I have seen that when I speak the truth, it is cemented in my heart. That is why memorizing Scripture is so critical. Verbally declaring our thanksgiving to God melts away the spirit of complaining that can so quickly take hold of us. I believe it's not enough to think it – we have to say it out loud!
3) Gratitude grows
As I have matured in the spiritual discipline of thanksgiving, I have seen massive growth in this area of my life. My view of God has increased, my understanding of His faithfulness has deepened, and I am a better steward of what God has given me. Practicing thanksgiving started out as a routine and has developed into a deep passion; like a muscle, the more I’ve exercised it, the more it has grown.
As I increasingly reflect on my life and all that I have been given, my sense of gratitude continues to deepen. I am convinced that, far more than just being polite, social behavior, thanksgiving indicates, with a high degree of accuracy, a person's spiritual well-being. Simply put, to be ungrateful is to lack understanding of the Gospel. I see no other way.
My prayer for my life is that I would wake up each day with King David’s words in my heart:
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.