In addition to being mindful of the present, if we are to ENJOY the season of life we’re in—to know Paul’s secret to being joyful and content in all circumstances—we must learn to live each day expressing thanks to God for each and every good gift and surrendering every bit of our will and desires and plans to him—for that day, and for all others— in the process.
Put very simply, we need to have a constant mindset of gratitude if we are to enjoy the life we have been given to live.
Ann Voskamp writes, in One Thousand Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are,
We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks.
Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever he gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our YES! to His grace.
Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life.
Voskamp goes on to say that thanks-giving—the giving of thanks in all things—also then prepares the way “that God might show us his fullest salvation in Christ.” The practice of giving thanks not only opens our eyes to what we have already been given, but opens our eyes to be able to more fully recognize all that currently coming and is yet to come.
Thanksgiving, therefore, helps us to see.
And in the seeing, we are transformed, which births even more gratitude, which brings forth more ability to see, which births even more gratitude—and on and on our hearts grow and expand in the fullness of God’s love.
A simple way to begin this practice of gratitude is keeping a list—it may be of Voskamp’s counting to 1000 and beyond variety, or it may be a daily review of that for which you were thankful over the last several hours. The format does not matter nearly as much as the consistent practice—the continual persistence in learning to see. The practice of consciously noting all that you are thankful for on an ongoing basis will bear statistically proven fruit. But only if you fully give yourself over to it.
Another way to practice gratitude is an exercise conceived by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., founder of the Positive Psychology movement, called the Gratitude Visit. Seligman regularly encourages clients to identify a person who has made some type of positive impact in their life, and to then write them a letter describing this impact. But rather than mail the letters, Seligman encourages his students and clients to deliver the letter personally and read the letter to the recipient. In the practice of doing so, he has found that people’s rates of depression are consistently cut literally in half within a month after doing this exercise.
The expression of gratitude, as we can see, is a powerful practice. It decreases rates of depression. It increases feelings of joy and well-being. It cultivates within those who practice it a heightened awareness of the movement of God.
And if we are seeking to ENJOY—to truly know and experience the Joy of the Lord—it is a practice we cannot overlook or underestimate.