For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
— 2 Corinthians 4:15
Have you ever marveled at the phenomenon that gratitude both leads to joy and praise, as well as springs from joy and praise? It’s as if our happiness is affixed inseparably to our gratitude.
There are days when the funk that precedes my wakefulness seems to be waiting, lurking in the corners for my mind to arise and meet it. These mornings start out negative and lacking gratefulness. Other mornings, I am awakened by joy and optimism. In the former, I must practice gratitude to come to joy. In the latter, gratitude flows freely unforced from joy.
Often our culture desires so desperately to be grateful but lacks something or someone to be grateful toward. Our gratitude hangs out there suspended by nothing and soon dissipates into indecision and even nihilism. When we watch someone thanking the universe or chance for their good fortune, there is an overwhelming since of arbitrariness and even ludicrousness that we can’t shake. It seems that our gratitude can not remain without praise and our praise can not continue arbitrarily. There is something in us that seeks to thank someone that can take credit for providing us with ‘what is’ based on their free choice.
In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
The Christian says, ’Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Perhaps earthly pleasures, finding no one to thank here on earth, were meant to arouse a sense of the real, unearthly thing from which these gifts flow. What an unnecessary and unwarranted surprise love is, for example. We can see from other creatures that it is not necessary to have love to thrive as a species. Love, in its fullest consciousness sense, seems to be a blessed gift for humans alone, and oh how thankful we are for it. We would die for those that we love. What about the glorious taste of bread? Certainly we could have evolved to eat food tasting of sand if we got hungry enough. Where did this blessed gift of taste come from and why if not God himself?
So we come back to joy and gratitude. How surprising it is to find such gratitude and joy in forgiveness. Have you watched a child’s face when they’re caught with a stolen cookie? The best description is fear and loathing. Lets face it, a spanking doesn’t hurt all that much, and a parent’s scorn shouldn’t be all that alarming. They’re going to love us again in a minute, right? So why the overwhelming joy when forgiven? Even children seem to know that they have violated a rule that should not be violated, and that they alone are responsible for that act.
Thus, when forgiven, a child’s face washes with relief, and they rush in for a hug. They promise that they will never, ever, ever do it again. They know that they do not deserve such forgiveness, and their joy, praise and gratitude spill over.
These small gratitudes are put in place for a reason, so that we will understand the magnificence and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through joy we express our understanding that his death for our trespasses was an unmerited gift. Our gratitude brings us to our knees, a smile etched on our faces. We rise and follow singing songs of praise. We are not worthy of such good things. Who are we that he should be mindful of us?
This Easter season, may our gratitude for the love and work of Jesus Christ spill over into joy and praise such that others may see and be attracted to Christ in us. He is risen.