Our thankfulness glorifies God and makes Him happy: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm 50:23). Puritan John Boys echoed the sentiment of the psalmist: “As the Lord loves a cheerful giver, so likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.” But God isn’t the only one affected when we give thanks.
Psychologists asked undergraduates to complete a survey that included a happiness scale and measures of thankfulness. Over six weeks, the participants wrote down, once a week, five things they were grateful for. This practice had a dramatic effect on their happiness score. The study concluded, “Students who regularly expressed gratitude showed increases in well-being over the course of the study.”
Secular books on happiness document gratitude’s role in making people happier. But cultivating gratitude proves difficult for people whose worldview leaves them with nobody to thank! Yes, they can thank someone for loaning them a car or for being their teacher. But whom can they thank for sunshine, air to breathe, and the capacity to enjoy pleasure? People who don’t believe that a sovereign God is at work through the kindness of others must thank their “lucky stars,” random circumstances, or—at best—other people. Since people are small when compared to God, the object of their gratitude is small, shrinking their capacity for happiness.
God’s common grace offers unbelievers a degree of happiness that’s greatly enhanced through thankfulness. As Christ-followers, however, we find gratitude multiplied when we return it to God, the ultimate and primary source of all goodness. In Choosing Gratitude, Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, “True gratitude, Christian gratitude, doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it has an Object.”
God gives us hundreds of reasons to be grateful every hour—and if you think I’m exaggerating, ask Him to make you aware of His gracious provisions surrounding you. Developing the habit and discipline of gratitude results in greater praise to God and greater happiness for ourselves. When life’s tough, we can be grateful that God is with us in our suffering, that He’s using it for our good, and that He promises to end it once and for all.
Keep your own happiness journal. Record God’s evident goodness around you every day. You’ll find that in time, you’ll see more and more gifts from Him—not because there are more, but because you’re finally seeing what has been there all along.
A. W. Tozer wrote, “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”
God, eternity won’t be long enough to thank you for all you’ve given us and all you will give us in the ages to come. May we not wait until we see you for our every breath to be filled with gratitude for the saving work of Jesus . . . along with every secondary gift you give us. May our hearts overflow with gratitude to you each day!