Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess 5: 16-18)

I’m reflecting a bit on gratitude today, because it’s almost Thanksgiving Day. Is “Giving thanks in all circumstances” (or simply “in everything,” ἐν παντὶ) even possible, along with “rejoicing always” and “praying without ceasing,” as the Apostle tells me to do in the above-cited verse? The three seem intimately connected, when I make a conscious effort to embrace them. This “effort” is neither forced nor overwhelming, when I let God’s loving discipline of joy, prayer, and gratitude into my day.

I find it helpful to list what I am grateful for this past day, when I write in my little, hard-covered notebook in the evening. I include this “gratitude” part along with the things I did well, and things I did poorly. And I find that gratitude changes the whole picture. Gratitude is a wonderful, God-given human capacity that gently removes the deep-seated disappointment or dissatisfaction I sometimes store up during the day (with situations, with myself, or others); It sheds a warm and humbling light on my day, however it went. Gratitude helps me be aware, on a daily basis, of God’s continuous presence in my life, liberating me from self-reliant fears, self-centered expectations of others, and arrogant self-criticism. Finally, gratitude opens my heart to joy and prayer, which come hand-in-hand when I have this awareness of God’s presence.

Today let me put gratitude in the center of my daily life. “For this,” the Apostle reminds me, “is the will of God in Christ Jesus” for me.

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