Open your newsfeed or newspaper or turn on your news channel and it’s nearly all bad. Like genuinely bad, too. Not just the typical fearmongering and clickbait used to push advertisements.
As we approach Thanksgiving and come into Gratitude Sunday the practice of gratitude takes real effort. Gratitude, in our Christian context, goes beyond a mere expression of thanks; we work to make a profound acknowledgment of God’s grace, a recognition of blessings received, and use it as a transformative force that shapes how we see and then interact with the world. If we can find God’s grace amid the bad news, then we can be free to live faithfully in a world rife with good and bad news.
Consider 1 Thessalonians 5:18, where the Apostle Paul admonishes, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Paul’s words encapsulate the essence of Christian gratitude—a call to gratitude not only in moments of joy but also in times of adversity. It reflects an unwavering trust in God’s providence, knowing that in every circumstance — whether pleasant or challenging — God is with us and has been through it all in Jesus Christ.
I’ll be the first to admit that cultivating a spirit of gratitude can be a counter-cultural practice. Amidst the constant noise and distractions of all the bad news, taking time to reflect on God’s goodness becomes increasingly crucial and difficult at the same time. All the bad news fills us with anxiety, fear, anger, and stress. But as Henri Nouwen once noted, “Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift.” By taking time for gratitude as a spiritual practice, we find ease in the uncomfortable symptoms all the bad news fills us with.
I also think that it doesn’t help that we are living in a culture that emphasizes self-reliance and individual achievement. This is why our Christian understanding and practice of gratitude is so challenging. It forces us to face the hard truth that everything we face is used by God. The words of C.S. Lewis echo this sentiment: “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good because it is good, if bad because it works in us patience, humility, and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” I think this is also what Paul meant in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
I think practicing gratitude as a Christian involves a deliberate shift in perspective—a shift from entitlement to humility, from complaint to contentment. It involves acknowledging that every breath, every opportunity, and every relationship is a gift from a loving God.
In this way, as Max Lucado says, “Gratitude is a dialysis of sorts. It flushes the self-pity out of our systems.” Lucado’s insight highlights the purifying and transformative power of gratitude. Gratitude acts as a spiritual antidote to negativity, fostering a heart that overflows with love, compassion, joy, and trust in God. I hope this Sunday’s worship and fellowship focusing on gratitude is just one dose of this good medicine that is so needed as we live faithful lives in our bad news world today.
And to keep up the good medicine and to help us see what there is to be grateful for in any of our days, I offer us all this prayer:
In the busyness of our lives, help us to pause and reflect on the countless blessings you have bestowed upon us. Open our hearts to see your hand at work in every circumstance, knowing that your love and grace abound in all things.
Grant us the wisdom to appreciate the simple joys and the strength to endure challenges with gratitude. May our lives be a testament to your goodness and may our hearts overflow with thanksgiving in all circumstances.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, we pray.