Why is it important for us to give thanks? What is it about gratitude that’s so good? We are told throughout the Bible that we humans must give thanks to God. We must bow before the Lord and worship Him with praise and thanksgiving. But why? Does God need our thanks? Is this the reason that He created us — to pay Him homage and tribute?
No. God isn’t a narcissist.
God, being God, knows all things. God knows that we appreciate the gift of life and all that is good, true, and beautiful in His Creation even when we don’t say, “Thank you.” God doesn’t need us to tell Him that He is great and mighty or that we owe everything that we have to Him. Thanking and praising God isn’t for His benefit. It’s for ours.
God, being God, knows all things. And God knows what it takes for us to be truly happy and fulfilled. He created us, after all, in His own image and likeness, and, being all-knowing, knows us better than we know ourselves. Because we are created in His own image and likeness, the image of love, our deepest satisfaction and joy comes through, with, and in loving. God knows that when we are truly loving, we are fulfilled and overflowing with goodness and joy.
That’s why the greatest divine commandment is to love.
Love and gratitude are the same essence — they are both divine gifts. Real love is not merely intense liking. We know that we are truly loving when we are willing to suffer something terribly unpleasant for the sake of a loved person, and when we can love someone even if we don’t like that person very much. Loving isn’t something that we do because we feel like it or because we will immediately enjoy pleasant effects from it. Love is gritty and deep; it isn’t always convenient and it isn’t always pretty. But it’s the best thing in the world — and beyond.
Gratitude is like that too.
Sure, it’s easy to be grateful for food, shelter, family, and friends, for the things that we enjoy, the things that give us pleasure. But when we find ourselves in the depths of sorrow or pain, do we ever feel like saying, “Thank you, God”? Probably not. Yet, if we truly love others, then we will love them even when they cause us sorrow — and we will be grateful for their presence in our lives. For they are part of our stories, and our stories are sacred. When we love enough to forgive those who are cruel to us, then we are able to learn the value of forgiveness. The value doesn’t lie in the probability that we will be forgiven by that person down the road. The value is here and now, in the very moment of forgiving. Because the act of forgiveness is an act of love, and love is everything. Appreciating the truth of this is gratitude — grateful even for the suffering that we endured.
Sounds a bit out there, I know. But St. Paul extols all Christians through the first letter to the Thessalonians: “In all circumstances, give thanks.” Be grateful in all circumstances. The pleasant and the painful. Why? Because, St. Paul says, “this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Again, why does God want us to give thanks in all circumstances? Because God knows everything, so God knows that giving thanks is the way to our true joy and fulfillment.
Without gratitude, we are not little enough to love fully. We cannot be so full of ourselves as to think that we are entitled to everything, owing nothing to anyone, and then hope to be fulfilled as human beings. Our true fulfillment comes through the truth. And the truth is that we are nothing without God. There is nothing without God. Recognizing and acknowledging this fact is the path of gratitude. Even when you don’t feel like giving thanks for your life or the lives of others, even when your life isn’t what you would like it to be, being thankful for life is the only way that you can hope to live your life in true joy.
It’s like when you get that Christmas gift that you think is ugly or useless, and you take a breath and say, “Thank you” to the giver of the gift. This thanksgiving is not solely for the benefit of the gift-giver, who was honestly trying her best, but also for your benefit. Realizing that we are not in control of everything and that appearances and pleasant feelings are not most important will lead us to a greater depth of heart, mind, and soul, a depth that will be filled with the joy of Christ. Emptying ourselves of our hangups, our senses of entitlement, and our petty pleasures and wants, we will make room for divine mercy and divine love — for divine joy.
Gratitude prepares the way for love as love prepares the way for gratitude, and both lead us to Christ — to everlasting fulfillment and bliss.Tweet
That’s why we are commanded to give thanks and praise to God. Our thanksgiving is as natural and necessary as our breathing of oxygen. It is simply true, it is simply right and just. It is simply who we are created to be — creatures of divine love.
I have much to be obviously grateful for: my family and my friends, my home and my vocation. On the feast of Christ The King of the Universe, 2019, I will celebrate six years of my consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, so, six years of this blog. I’m grateful for you, my dear readers, for following me and staying with me, most recently through the many sicknesses of 2017, my New Year’s resolution of 2018, and the publishing of my book (very soon) in 2019. I’m grateful for all of these circumstances and for you, even if this is the first time that we have encountered one another. Thank you! I hope that my gratitude brings to you as much joy as it brings to me. God willing, it will, in the peace of Christ.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.