The Joy We Find in Gratitude

. . . and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.—Acts 5:40b-41

For years, Thanksgiving week became the time when I would focus on being grateful. But then a friend gave me a gratitude journal where I was to write three things for which I was thankful every day.

Some days my list goes beyond the prescribed number. Some days—when I let life beat me down, or I’m weary of the same-old, same-old—I struggle to come up with even three things.

Then I read about the apostles rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ. They had joy. They were grateful. The two are intrinsically linked. A Jesuit priest is credited with summing it up beautifully: “It’s not joy that makes us grateful; it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.”

If we lose our joy, we’ve lost our gratitude. If we’ve lost our gratitude, we’ll have no joy.

It is one thing to endure trials. It is another to be grateful through them. But trials are necessary. They drive us into the arms of our heavenly Father. They help us build spiritual muscle and increase our faith as we experience the Lord’s constancy and nearness in the midst of them.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.—Romans 5:3-5

If you’re struggling this Thanksgiving to find things for which to give thanks, as I sometimes do, let me help you get started:

  • God will never leave or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). You’ll never go through your valley alone. He is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).
  • His grace is sufficient, and His strength will be made perfect in your weakness (1 Corinthians 12:9). When you grow weak, you can draw upon His perfect and limitless power.
  • The Lord will give you a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13), and we can trust it will all be for your good (Romans 8:28).
  • You, like Jesus Himself, will overcome, just as He overcame when all hope seemed lost (1 John 5:4). The end of the story is written and immutable.

May your hearts abound with gratitude and joy this Thanksgiving knowing we have a God who is love and who is good. Time to start counting our blessings, my friends.