The secret of gratitude – of living life with thankfulness – is worth finding. Even more-so as we age – since we might encounter people (ourselves?) locked in regret or bitterness – or we may be blessed to know elders who live with humble gratitude. John Ortberg writes “The Soul needs Gratitude” in his book Soul Keeping:
“More gratitude will not come from acquiring more things or experiences, but from more of an awareness of God’s presence and his goodness. It’s a way of looking at life, always perceiving the good. Gratitude is a by-product of seeing things, and it always involves three factors (from the old Latin work bene):
First, the benefit. In order to be grateful, you have to receive and recognize a gift that you believe is good… God does all this. These are the benefits he gives us, and the soul responds with gratitude.
Second, gratitude requires that there be a benefactor… one who does good, a little factory that produces good. To be truly grateful you must not only recognize the benefits or gifts that come your way, but that they are not just random acts; they are not accidents. They are coming from Someone who has good intentions for you. To be grateful as a Christian, you must believe that the good that is in your life comes from God…
In addition to the benefit and the benefactor, there is the beneficiary: the one who receives the good gifts of God. And that’s you. You are the beneficiary of the benefits of a God who has your best interests at heart, and this is going on all the time. When we take that for granted or believe we deserve his gifts, we are no longer grateful; you can’t be grateful for something you believe you are entitled to, and without a grateful heart the soul suffers. Because the soul needs gratitude.
This is where many of us fail the gratitude test, because we tend to look around us and believe all that we have was gained by our own resourcefulness. Or that we’re entitled to the blessings in our lives. But gratitude always comes from a posture of humility…”
Training for Gratitude
Ortberg finishes his chapter with suggesting that in Jesus’ day, he would have been in a milieu of training for gratitude since:
“… every devout Israelite would pray what was called “The Eighteen Benedictions“… In Hebrew, a benediction was any prayer that began with the word bless. In the morning when they woke up, they would pray eighteen times, “Blessed are you, God.” At night before they went to bed they would prayer eighteen times, “Blessed are you, God”… the Hebrew benedictions connected the gift with the Giver. It reminds the citizens of Israel that all that was good came from God.”