PSALM 136 – Oh….give thanks to the God of heaven….. His love endures forever!
When we were children, most of us learned about the magic words : “ please and thank you”. Despite not being entirely sure why these words were so important, it was not difficult to figure out that, in most cases, when these words were used, good things happened. ‘Please’ opened doors of generosity and ‘thank you’ usually opened more doors further down the line. We thus acquired a positive habit without actually knowing the full meaning of what we were doing.
Gratitude – relates to the ‘Thank-you’ part – it speaks of appreciation…of being grateful….being much obliged….in someone’s debt! It seems the message behind it is all about acknowledging something that has added value to our lives and that we feel compelled to celebrate what we have received.
Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday every November at which time there is a pausing to be grateful for the many things we have, that we have been provided with, things we have done and achieved. Even a special meal is shared – somehow, the turkey earned a place of honour at the table for this special dinner (no one is sure why). It has been said that this act of thanksgiving usually leaves us feeling better about ourselves and more loving towards others. It also focuses our attention on the greatest Giver of all – Almighty God.
Counting your blessings just once a year, however, leaves a huge period of time in which we may forget to be thankful. BUT, a grateful frame of mind helps us to be thankful everyday. That kind of thanksgiving does not need a special day on which to be practiced.
Gratitude – a grateful attitude – inspires other good attitudes. It’s hard to have a bad attitude when you are feeling grateful. Ingratitude, on the other hand, is probably the most prevalent sin, both towards others as well as to God. I am sure you would agree that it sometimes comes easier to know pity than feel appreciation. It certainly seems easier to criticize than compliment. Griping, grumbling and being grouchy are just doing what comes naturally. They are part of our negative, self-centered nature as vessels of clay.
Being thankful is other-centered. Giving thanks, in contrast to self-centeredness, is oriented outwardly, expressing our gratitude toward others. G K Chesterton said : “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Clearly the most exquisite form of courtesy.
What about an attitude of gratitude when circumstances are dark, difficult or impossible?
A friend told me that at Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous they commonly use the phrase “an attitude of gratitude”. One can’t help but to think : “What exactly do these people have to be thankful about?” Many of them were there because they’d supposedly made a complete mess of their lives. Every chair at their meetings is occupied by someone with more regrets than they could count. Some had done prison time, lost their driver’s license, some are on probation. Most are divorced, in debt, and plagued with legal problems. Many of them have health problems due to their substance abuse. Yet, they talk about gratitude, about being thankful for what they had. What was it that made them thankful, when so many people who had far more than they had never gave a second thought about gratitude? This may illustrate that gratitude has nothing to do with how much you have. It has nothing to do with how much money, stuff, friends, or influence you have. People who overflow with these things never take the time to stop and be grateful, while people with just a little overflow with gratitude – especially people who appreciate the reality of almost having ‘lost it all’! Clearly an open door for the love and ever-enduring mercy of Almighty God.
Psalm 136 offers a healthy perspective on gratitude. It is a unique psalm because it was written after Israel’s return from exile in Babylon, some 400 years after King David lived. It was written for the worship service in the rebuilt Jewish temple. Today the psalm is used by Jewish people as they celebrate Passover. Each line is followed by the same refrain (“His love endures forever). Our lives overflow with gratitude when we’re convinced God loves us. Psalm 136:1–3.
The Hebrew verb for “give thanks” conveys the idea of verbally acknowledging something—this thankfulness is more than just an attitude. The refrain, “His love endures forever,” forms the basis for this command to thank God. The Hebrew word for “love” here is “hesed”, translated “steadfast love,” or covenant love. God’s steadfast love is forever; it’s not temporary or conditional.
The person who is convinced of the loyal love of God has a heart that overflows with gratitude.
No matter what is happening in our circumstances, we can know God loves us. We can know WHO and WHOSE we are!
Psalm 136:23–26. The author thinks of his own circumstances as he writes this psalm—Israel is returning from Babylon. He sees God’s present provision as a sign of his love. God’s love for us is evidenced in His provision for our lives, in the big and the small things. Our awareness of God’s love overflows as gratitude.
We CAN live with a continual attitude of gratitude. No matter what our circumstances, we can—and should—live a thankful life. Our lives will overflow with gratitude when we’re convinced of God’s love for us and are reminded of his love through creation, our salvation history, and His current provision for us. Skip Pritchard from Leadership Insights recommends five ways to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”:
1. Write it down.
2. Talk about it.
4. Express it.
5. Seek it.
Then, don’t be surprised if curious onlookers find you just bubbling over with enthusiasm and gratitude for life. Contagious Christianity at its best.
Live and lead inspired ……..with an attitude of gratitude.
About the Author
Dr Solomons is a Specialist Prosthodontist in private practice. She is head of clinical unit in Prosthodontics, teaching master’s students at Medunsa. A trainee transformational leadership coach serving as a lay pastor. A fellow of Higher Education South Africa (HESA) as well as the President and Director of the South African Dental Association. She has been married for 27 years to Dean and together they have two handsome adult sons. Her passion lies in seizing every opportunity to influence and impact atmospheres, empowering others unto greater exploits, making God known.