Being genuinely grateful to God will unlock your power to enjoy your life.
The first rule for living joy is so powerful I almost wrote my entire book Living Joy about it. It’s gratitude. I’m going to talk about the five things that gratitude powerfully unleashes in your life, and the one main reason we all tend to stink at it.
I know God’s will for your life. Check this out, from 1 Thessalonians 5: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
What does God want from my life? Does he want me to move to California or does he want me to move to North Dakota? Does he want me to be a missionary or get married? Does he want me to have pepperoni or sausage? All important questions.
Well, let me tell you, before you think about anything else, his will for you is to be a grateful person, because your mind can’t tackle anything else you might try to discern in your life until you have a mind of gratitude.
So what does gratitude do for you?
First, gratitude unlocks your power to enjoy your life. Gratitude is the key that will unlock the smile on your face. God wants you to enjoy your life. Some of the harshest words I’ve ever read in Sacred Scripture are addressed to people who have blessings, but their hearts don’t enjoy them. It’s in Ecclesiastes, and the words are: “A stillborn child is better off than you.” Ouch.
Two, gratitude generates feelings in the natural that make you more successful. Some people think that their success will lead to their joy. The opposite is true. You having a joyful grateful spirit actually leads to your success. Some people look to things like Red Bull and creatine for performance enhancers. When you focus on what makes you grateful, it releases serotonin and dopamine — real performance enhancers. It also lights up the part of your brain associated with learning and problem-solving, so kids who go to school complaining about school the whole time — they’re not actually learning. Neither are you when you’re complaining about everything in your life.
Three, gratitude makes you a blessing magnet. If you say “thank you” to people all the time, they just want to give you more. This also applies to God. St. Therese of Lisieux said what most attracts God’s graces is gratitude, because if we thank him for a gift, he’s touched and hastens to give us 10 more.
Four, gratitude gives you a victorious attitude and changes you from a victim to a victor. St. Paul had this victor attitude in prison because he was grateful. Think of Paul in prison — miserable circumstances, in chains. The people walking around might have been the ones who were scheduled to behead him. And in those circumstances, he writes to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice!” And then he commands them: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your request known to God.” You know why St. Paul had an unconquerable spirit in prison? Because he filtered every experience he had through gratitude.
Five, gratitude preserves the relationships in your life, because I’ve literally seen marriages end because of ingratitude. If you want to find the flaws in your spouse rather than giving thanks for the blessings of your spouse — and this is just one relationship example — oh, trust me, you’ll find those flaws. And you’d better pray your spouse isn’t looking for yours, because you’ll find those too.
You fixate on what will bring you down, not in the blessings that bring you up. It’s natural. But aren’t you tired of living in the natural? Gratitude is the way out.