God's promise: He is for us
The Rev. Pieter Willems, senior pastor at Mustard Seed Christian Fellowship, 700 Wakarusa Drive:
Webster's dictionary tells us that gratitude is a state of being appreciative of benefits received. Gratitude is a response to something that is given to us that we perceive as positive or beneficial to our life. If our sense of gratitude is tied to our perception of whether life is good or bad, then we will definitely not always have a grateful attitude.
Instilling a constant sense of gratitude in our life comes from having a God-perspective on life through a personal relationship with him. This personal relationship is available through faith in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus' death on the cross for us, we have some of the following benefits: We are forgiven for all our sins; we are now children of God; we have power over sin; we have authority over the powers of darkness; we have eternal life in heaven; we have access to a life filled with love, joy, and peace; and nothing can separate us from his love.
Although I can't list everything here, God has literally given us everything he has. Reminding myself of this will instill gratitude in my heart.
God did not promise us a life without pain, trouble, suffering, conflict or loss. It is during such times that we typically struggle being grateful. God's promise is this: He is for us and, "He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose."
A sense of gratitude is instilled in us when we really believe this. No matter how tough life may be or may have been, if I put my faith in God, everything will ultimately work for good in my life. This helps me have a deep sense of gratitude whether life is easy or hard, because I see my life from God's perspective.
Focusing on God, others is essential
The Rev. Jonathon Jensen, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:
One of the surest ways NOT to instill a sense of gratitude is to try to force it. I am reminded of family gatherings when things are not going well. The exasperated parent exclaims, "We're going to enjoy this. We're going to have fun." It's like saying, "We're going to be grateful." It simply won't work.
Gratitude or thankfulness will only become a reality when we get the focus off ourselves and direct it to God and others. Gratitude implies that we are thankful to someone or something -- be they God, family, friends or neighbors. Thankfulness will only become instilled when it becomes a habit -- and all habits, good or bad, come through practice.
An excellent way to establish this practice is to ask yourself each day, "What am I thankful for?" As the old hymn goes, "Count your blessings." Practice offering thanks every day. If you miss a day, start the next. Offer thanksgiving in a prayer, a word or a note each day to God, family, friends and even a stranger. Almost no one refuses a thank you, and it is, much more often than not, appreciated.
Through regular practice of a spirit of thankfulness we grow to appreciate that much of what we have and who we are is a gift, an unearned inheritance that someone passed on to us. Keep passing it on.
What are you thankful for?