Do you struggle to be grateful? Join the club. Most of us need to cultivate the habit of gratefulness.
The Greater Good Science Center commissioned the Expanding Gratitude Project to fund 27 different projects to understand the power of gratitude. One researcher penned some of his results as Six Habits of Highly Grateful People. I liked his title but decided to see what habits I would notice in scripture.
Let’s study two highly grateful believers to see what habits they share.
David: The Grateful King
David led Israel as a Warrior Poet. He killed tens of thousands, but he also wrote half the book of Psalms. Many of David’s songs centered around thanksgiving. So much so that I think we could call him a grateful king.
What habits can we learn from King David? Here are three:
#1: Remember your story
Before David became king he served as a shepherd. This experience proved invaluable in defeating Goliath and he remained humble most of the time (except around the time when he sinned with Bathsheba). He knew he wasn’t Samuel’s obvious choice and this kept him thankful that God chose him.
He prayed, ““Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)
Habit: Grateful people remember where we came from and the people who helped us become who we are.
#2: Give thanks in advance
David remembered how God rescued him from impossible circumstances (see Psalm 40:1-3). Based on these memories, he also promised to offer thanksgiving sacrifices when God answered his prayers (Ps. 54:6).
Habit: Rooted in God’s past faithfulness, grateful people promise to give thanks to God in advance, knowing he will answer.
#3: Give thanks in community
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.”PSALM 22:22 NLT
Something powerful happens when we express our gratitude toward others, whether God or people. The other person may benefit from the power of our words, but the whole community benefits as we celebrate together the stories of abundance, grace, and thanks. When we communicate thankfulness, we receive encouragement and blessing, too.
Habit: Grateful people share their words and expressions of gratitude with others.
Paul: The Grateful Apostle
In an article published for Called to Worship, I noticed that you “could call Paul the Apostle of Thanksgiving for how often he gives thanks in his writing.” He incessantly gives thanks (1 Thess 2:13), gives thanks for the saints (1 Cor 1:4), gives thanks for liberty, providence, and victory (1 Cor 15:57), and he teaches us to give thanks in everything (1 Thess 5:18) and for all things (Eph. 5:20).
Here are two more habits we learn from Paul:
#4: Timing is everything.
Paul understood that God holds all things together and that everything we have comes from God. So he constantly gave thanks and stopped often to give thanks. On Day 6 of the Gratitude Challenge, we explored 7 different times to be thankful.
Habit: Grateful people constantly give thanks.
#5: Start off everything by being thankful
Notice how all of Paul’s letters start with prayers of thanks to God and words of praise and thanks for the people to whom he writes. He does this even when he intends to rebuke the readers.
For example, in First Corinthians, Paul starts off by saying, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4). He spends quite a few verses listing reasons for why he is thankful. But later in the book, he rebukes them for allowing sin to run rampant in their midst, lax worship practices, and many other hard words. But he has set the pastoral tone by starting with words of praise and thanks. He also ends with a prayer of blessing and affirming his love (1 Cor. 16:23-24).
Parents and bosses are taught to deliver discipline or hard news by surrounding it with words of praise and thanks. This ensures the listener is not completely destroyed by our words. But I think it also does something for the message bearer; they will demonstrate more empathy if they can see positive and negative in the other person.
Habit: Grateful people start and end most of their conversations with words of thanks and praise.
Select one of these habits you need to work on. In your journal, write down the benefits you envision could come from adopting this habit. Then write down the consequences if you don’t change. Finally, write down one thing you can do today and for the next seven days to start cultivating this habit. If possible, tell your Thankful Trio about your commitment.
Lord, I have so much to be thankful for each and every day. Forgive me for not noticing. Help me to start my day and each conversation with gratitude. May my words not be empty, but full of deep appreciation. Thank you for blessing me with so many good things. I know you are not stingy, but love to give good gifts. So I vow to thank you for each time you bless me and answer my prayers. More than all, I thank you for the gift of your son and your love. In his name, I pray. Amen.