I’ve been thinking about gratitude lately. I often think of it as something to strive for and practice, but recently I’ve had some moments of gratitude sweep over me unexpectedly. It happens in the quieter, focused moments. A reminder to slow down, perhaps. To pay attention. In one particular moment, gratitude swept my heart off its feet a little and I was quickly aware how impossible it is for that to have come from me. It reminded me that the point of striving for gratitude in our lives isn’t just about being humble, but about actually letting the Lord into our lives and our hearts. The practice of gratitude is a calling, the feeling of gratitude is a gift.
Gratitude is so easily aimed outward – we identify things to be grateful for, and look for the Lord’s hand in our situations and good fortunes. It is good practice to attribute the good things in our outward lives to the Lord, but if we simply stop there perhaps we stumble into too external a picture of where the Lord is. After all, providence is about the good that’s allowed, that’s findable in any situation. It’s the ability to be grateful, turn to the Lord, and to live a good life regardless of whether our external situations are fortunate or not. So while I fully support being grateful for the good things in our worldly lives, I’ve lately been noticing more of how the Lord works within. I’ve been appreciating the great inward gifts that are the opportunity to see good and the push in my heart toward gratitude, which seem to come more deeply from the Lord, and sit more deeply in providence.
It’s so easy to think that the love and gratitude I feel is from me. As if I’m offering it forward to whatever it is I’m feeling grateful for. But really that feeling is the Lord’s love. We know from a number of passages in the Word and the Writings that all good is really from the Lord. The Lord reaches us and changes us most directly from the inside. As I’m looking outward with my eyes and my brain for His blessings, all along they’re most closely in my heart. So once again I’m called to reframe how I hold things, and who I attribute them to. My ability to be grateful, the peace I sometimes get to glimpse through that, my desire to thank Him, my will to believe…those choices, feelings, and abilities are so directly from Him. Too powerful to come from me. To recognize Him holding me so deeply and personally within my own heart is humbling and calming to me. It is my own choice to foster and accept those, but an incredible gift from Him when I do.
I hope this is a common way to hold gratitude, but for me it’s been a useful reminder. It’s powerful and life-giving to recognize those little moments of peaceful gratitude in my heart as the Lord Himself, endlessly close to us, and endlessly available. I’m more accustomed to the idea of being grateful *for* the Lord than I am to the idea of gratitude being from the Lord. It makes Him feel warmly close, and has helped me accept His presence with me a little better than I do when I’m too focused on outward reality.
So while we keep thanking the Lord for sunshine and family and roofs over our heads, and for the ability to grow and trust and love, I encourage you, when you really *feel* the peace of gratitude, to recognize it as a bit of heaven – a proof that He’s really right there so close that you feel Him.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:1-5)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)