Nearing the end of 2011, a friend shared the 365grateful project on Facebook, started in 2008 by a lady who was really down. She was told then that the secret to happiness was reflection and gratitude, which led her to record each night something about the day that she was thankful for. Soon, she began to notice things that she would otherwise have missed and realized how special these little moments were. As a result, she developed a more positive outlook, and started the 365grateful website to spread the practice so that more people can benefit from it.
When I first learnt of this project, I was also feeling down. Having returned a few months earlier after spending a year overseas, there were many adjustments to be made. To prevent myself from wallowing in self-pity, I decided to give this a try, recording daily something for which I was thankful. Having continued the project till this day, with some breaks in between, I am beginning to understand the importance of a grateful heart.
Four years down the road since I started, it was only recently that I discovered the importance of gratitude and the Christian faith. To put it simply, if we truly understand the cost of our salvation, we would be grateful to God’s immeasurable love for us; if we truly understand how sinful and unforgivable we are, we would be humbled by God’s grace and mercy toward us; if we truly believe that everything is in God’s hands, how can we not be thankful to a God who is almighty?
Romans 5:8 tells us that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is a comforting passage for many of us, reassuring us of God’s love. However, we often missed out a significant fact, that while we were still sinners, we were God’s “enemies” (Romans 5:10), which means God literally died for his enemies. Examining this from human perspective, it is truly mind-boggling. The depth of God’s love for His people is unimaginable. And what have we done to deserve this marvellous love? Nothing. Can we ever earn this love? No. We receive this love when we believe, as simple as that. This grace that has been shown to us, should we not be thankful?
In life, we work hard and take pride in our work, basking in the glory of our achievements. Yet, when we take a step back and consider, we realize that we cannot quite claim these successes as our own. For if God did not bless us with gifts and talents, what can we accomplish; if not for our God-given personalities and experiences, are we still who we are? John 15:5 teaches that, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” We must always bear in mind that the successes we enjoy in this world, be in our academics, career or family, are all blessings from God. It is thus only right for us to be thankful and give all glory to God.
Being thankful is more than paying lip service; it demands action on our part. Knowing that we are nothing apart from God, enables us to embrace others without prejudice. Knowing that we are as flawed as the next person, as prone to making mistakes as they are, enables us to be gracious when others make mistakes, allowing people around us to encounter the love of God through our lives. Simply put, a thankful heart allows us to extend grace to others and thus express God’s grace for His people.
We might think that it would be near impossible for us to express this love and grace to those who have hurt us. Many a times, this is due to us putting the focus on our wounds instead of on God. No one can be more wronged and wounded than Christ, yet he not only forgave our sins but also went on the cross for us so that we may be set free. And if we claim to have received, how can such love and grace not flow out of our lives? And if we claim to be his followers, why do we still find it so hard to forgive?
In conclusion, a thankful heart continually reminds us of God’s love, grace and sovereignty, enabling us to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Note: First written on Apr 14, 2015 in Mandarin and subsequently translated into English