Some years ago I read a book called ‘Power in Praise’ that transformed my way of looking at life. The author, Merlin Carothers, encouraged readers to praise God at all times, and in every circumstance. When I started to follow his suggestion, it transformed my perspective of every circumstance that came into my life and led to my experiencing a joy I’d never known before.
Rather than grumbling and complaining about situations that I wouldn’t have chosen in my life, I learned to give thanks to God for them and to consider the blessing He could bring to me and others through them. I began then– and have chosen daily since– to walk through life looking for things to which to be thankful for every day. I’ve seen the power of gratitude in the Bible and have learned that the simple act of choosing gratitude will change our perspective on life, and even more importantly, it will change us!
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
A Heart of Gratitude During Trying Times
Even during trying days, I can be filled with gratitude. God foretold us that we would experience trials and tribulation in this life, so when they occur, I can be grateful that our God knows the condition of our world. In His Word, He has not only warned us to expect trials, but He has assured us that we can be of good cheer in the midst of them because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)
I can also rejoice knowing that the trials that God allows into my life can be the very instrument of His grace that will refine my faith and produce in me exactly what I need to finish this life strong and ‘perfect’ in Him.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 ESV
Even in times of chaos, uncertainty, and great change when the world seems to be falling apart — as many see our current world situation — we can be full of thanksgiving! We can rejoice knowing that God is still on His throne and Sovereign above all of the world’s affairs. We can thank Him that nothing ever catches Him, the One who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, by surprise. When things appear to be falling apart, we can be glad and grateful that we know they are all coming together according to His planned purposes.
Furthermore, often people are more open to hearing the life-saving gospel when they are in turmoil, feeling overwhelmed, aware of their own inadequacy and need help. God promises to hear the cries of those who look to Him and recognize their need for Him and the answers to life that only a relationship with Him can provide. For example, I have been able to thank God for using COVID-19 to help people be reminded of the brevity and fragility of life and their need to live for what will matter for all eternity and not just this temporary life.
We can know that everything that comes into our lives has first been filtered through Him who is ‘Perfect Love,’ and if He has allowed it to come into my life, He is also powerful enough to use it for my good and His glory!
Focusing on Christ, Creating a Heart of Gratitude
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 ESV
Fixing our eyes on God, who is the Giver of everything, puts us in the position to have a posture of gratitude. By looking at Christ, we can see the myriad of gifts that God gives to us each and every day. Things we may take for granted, like indoor plumbing and a hot shower; the ability to see, hear, taste and feel; a kind waiter at a restaurant; the warm car we drive in when it’s rainy outside.
My husband and I recently traveled throughout North Carolina, soaking in the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation as revealed in the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the trees awash in the glorious colors of autumn. We couldn’t help but thank Him aloud for His handiwork, which He made for our enjoyment, and which reminds us of what a mighty God we have who spoke and brought such beauty into existence.
When we acknowledge that every good and perfect gift is from God, that sense of gratitude takes the focus off of ourselves and places it on Him, who is always worthy of our praise.
Gratitude as a Humbling Act
Having gratitude is in itself an expression of humility. When we express our gratitude to God for His gifts, we acknowledge His greatness and our dependence upon Him. In contrast, ingratitude is a sign of pride. The Bible reveals ingratitude as a grievous sin that kept the Israelites from entering the Promised Land; the Israelites grumbling and complaining indicated their hearts’ posture of entitlement and their belief that they knew better than God what they needed and what was good for them.
Just like looking through a magnifying glass, whatever you choose to focus on will expand in your sight. If you focus on all of your blessings, you will see more of them in your life, and your heart will be filled with joy. However, if you focus on the things that you don’t have, you will be continually discontent seeing what you lack rather than the multitude of gifts God has provided for you.
The Power of Gratitude Seen Throughout the Bible
The power of gratitude is seen clearly throughout the Bible.
A great book that shows the power of gratitude in the Bible is Psalms, most of which was written by David — the former giant slaying shepherd and future king of Israel — who hid out of fear for his life from King Saul. In many of the Psalms he pours his heart out in lament to the Lord for the apparent injustice of his circumstances, yet, his Psalms almost always end with praise to God despite his despair. Keeping His focus on God even in the midst of His dire situation led Him to see God and realize His goodness, resulting in thanksgiving to Him!
The account of the apostle Paul and Silas who were imprisoned and in chains for their faith in Jesus, yet chose to sing praises to Him, is a great example of how gratitude to God — especially in the midst of trying circumstances — can impact our own attitude, the atmosphere around us, and even have a life transforming impact on the lives of others!
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer[e] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16: 25-34 ESV
Have you ever considered how choosing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ can impact your own life, the atmosphere around you, and be used to transform others? What power God has given to each of us through the gift of praise! Choose gratitude in all circumstances and think of the pleasure we can give to God from whom we receive all things, which is the very purpose for which we were created: to give God glory, praise, and honor.
Foster a heart of thankfulness by pursuing thanksgiving prayers of the faithful.