No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.
I recently called a friend to ask for her prayers in a situation I was struggling with. A few weeks later I texted her to say that circumstances had improved and she quickly texted back: "Be sure to thank God—He likes to be thanked!"
What a beautiful reminder she gave me that day. God loves a thankful heart...and we should, too! Not only on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year. I have heard it said that a thankful heart is a happy heart. If this statement is true, isn't the opposite also true? A thankless heart is an unhappy heart.
We have so much to be grateful for in this life, but the reality of our everyday demands, struggles, worries, and regrets can make us prone to ingratitude and defeatism rather than appreciation and gratefulness. Over time, such ingratitude can erode our sense of joy. We forget to pause and thank God in the midst of the busyness and pressures of day-to-day living. Perhaps it feels a real sacrifice at times to offer praise and thanks. We don't feel like doing it. We are struggling. We are weary. We might even feel as if He has let us down. The pain of life might have sent us on a downward spiral.
Every Day Is An Opportunity To Give Thanks
Even in rough circumstances, we have the opportunity—every day—to say thank you to God. We might find it difficult to thank Him when things aren't going well, but if we make a habit of offering thanks to God as often as possible, it is amazing what He can do with our hardened hearts.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
God doesn't work just to change our situation and help us through our problems. He changes our hearts, as well. As we become more conditioned to have gratitude to God for all things, we begin to take our eyes off ourselves and to focus on Him.
A few years ago, I decided to add parts of the Liturgy of the Hours to my prayer routine. I now try to say Lauds (morning prayer) and Compline (night prayer) every day. The Office of Readings includes many of the Psalms, and even by saying just these two "Hours," I often find myself saying prayers of thanksgiving. That's because many of the Psalms sing the praises of God. I have been surprised at the change not only in my prayer life, but also in my interior disposition.
There are tremendous spiritual benefits that come from practicing gratitude.
We Grow In Faith When We Thank God
Here are just some of the rewards we might discover if we remember to give thanks to God often:
- A spirit of humility. We are reminded that God is the Giver of all good gifts. We are not meant to be self-sufficient. We are called to rely on Him for all our needs.
- Eyes that are opened. Our eyes are opened to how much we have to be thankful for. Even the smallest things become opportunities for which to thank God.
- A deeper capacity to share in the burdens of others. We become less focused on ourselves and have more space in our hearts to those around us.
- Less room for complaining. When we develop a grateful heart, we begin to see even our hardships as reasons to thank God.
- A reason for the devil to flee. The forces of darkness hate to be near hearts that give glory and honor to God. Praise and thanksgiving to God makes evil spirits recoil.
- A door that is opened for continual blessings. Our spirits are refreshed and renewed in Him when we recognize all that we have been given. We dispose our hearts to receive further graces when we practice gratitude: "For to all those who have, more will be given" (Matthew 25:29).
God loves to give good gifts to His children. He delights in our thankfulness and pours out His Spirit and favor on those who give honor and gratitude to Him. We see this in the Holy Mass.
Even if we forget to thank God during the week, we are given the opportunity each Sunday at Mass to thank Him by our presence and participation. Isn't it amazing that God has instilled within His Church a means for this continuous gratitude? The word Eucharist means thanksgiving and attending Mass fosters in us this gratitude.
Fostering that attitude of thanksgiving in our daily lives is not always easy, but it is worth the effort. If we can eke out only the smallest amount of gratitude to God, He responds swiftly. Saint John of Avila used to say that one Deo Gratias (Thanks be to God) in adversity is worth six thousand in prosperity.
God knows what is in our hearts. Scripture says that we please Him when we are humble and thank Him for our difficulties: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
There is always something to be thankful for. So let us try to look for whatever that is, wherever we go. I am thankful, in fact, for the simple reminder that my friend sent me that day. As often as possible I will pass it along as good advice:
"Be sure to thank God! He likes to be thanked."