I chose gratitude for a topic because, hopefully, all of us have gained insights about ourselves over the years, insights that have challenged us to growth. We should be grateful for those insights, even if sometimes they may have been painful for us. We know that scripture provides us with many references for gratitude. For instance, in Psalm 30 we hear, “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” And in Psalm 9 we hear, “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart.” As helpful as these psalms, and many other scripture references are to remind us that gratitude is important, I want to focus on a story that is a familiar one, the story of the ten lepers. (Luke 17: 11-19)
Jesus asks, “Where are the Nine?” Unlike other healing stories, this one shows Jesus expecting gratitude for what he did for these ten lepers. If we had been among the ten, would we be the one to give thanks, or would we be among the nine ungrateful people who took Jesus’ healing for granted?
We need to remind ourselves often that we were created by a personal, loving God, who became one of us. As a human, Jesus died, and his death came violently. But Jesus defeated death in the resurrection, and gave that gift of new life to all of us. Because of this unique relationship we have with the Risen Christ, we are strongly encouraged, to praise and give gratitude to our loving God, and not just a surface gratitude, but rather, a gratitude given with all our heart.
We should be grateful for all our life experiences – both the positive and the negative – because both kinds of experiences, can be sources of grace and growth in our lives. Are you grateful for all your positive experiences? Even more importantly, are you grateful for the personal growth that came from the painful experiences as well? We may not appreciate the negative experiences as they happen in our lives, but with prayer and reflection, we often find that we have grown, that we have become stronger because of them. In all things, we give thanks!
None of us is hardwired to be grateful. Like any skill worth having, gratitude can become a habit. It requires awareness and practice. The benefits of practicing gratitude can be life-altering. Many years ago I read an article from Psychology Today that stated, “We can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of gratitude to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.” I believe that the bottom line of all of this is that we can choose to cultivate the attitude and practice of gratitude in our lives. We are never too old to do this. When we go back to the story of the ten lepers, my deepest hope and prayer is that each and every one of us would be the one who returned to Jesus to give thanks. Think of all the blessings you have received in your lives from your loving and generous God. It is not too late to give thanks to God for all of them, even now.
What are some of your blessing for which you are grateful?
What are some negative experiences that eventually became blessings in your life?
Do you have an attitude of gratitude? Why or why not?
Take some time to reflect on the blessings you received this week. This year. Over your lifetime.