Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Power of Thankfulness

Gratitude is Love and Faith

Misery is lonely; gratitude is shared. In my life I have known both. At times, misery has nearly overwhelmed me and overcome me. Gratitude feels better.

Gratitude focuses outward away from the self, from the ego. Misery focuses inwardly. Where we place our focus absorbs the nourishing nutrition of our concentrated attention. Misery begets misery gratitude begets more gratitude. Our focus can make either thrive and flourish.

As we give thanks to our Father and to our fellow human beings, our gratitude in all things increases. A dearth of things to be thankful for does not negate the importance of gratitude. In fact, since gratitude creates greater gratitude, when we feel little gratitude that is precisely the time we should seek reasons to be thankful. By looking around and giving thanks for little things, we increase our gratitude naturally.

Gratitude is, in reality, an act of faith. Standing at the entrance of the tomb of His friend, Lazarus, our Lord Jesus Christ “…lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me…And when he thus had spoken he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:41, 43). Christ, the greatest of all, felt moved to give thanks to His Father for the power to bring His friend back to life. Clearly Lazarus came back to life in an act of faith; the gratitude of our Lord in advance of the miracle was likewise an act of faith.

Thus we see that gratitude is both a manifestation of faith and a strengthener of faith. Thus we also see that faith and love, being nearly one in substance, require a focus away from ourselves toward others. As we focus away from ourselves, we no longer perceive our misery, much less suffer from it.

As we focus away from ourselves, away from our pain, we find joy in the gratitude we now feel. Upon this earth and within the cosmos that a loving God created as a means of sharing with His beloved children a fullness of joy, there is much to be grateful for. The very act of focus away from the self toward God and His service to His children is a leap of faith. A fullness of faith brings a fullness of joy in perfect love.

Our Lord explained the process very well. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose hi life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24; cf. also Mark 8:35, Matthew 10:39, JSTT Mathew 10:34).

(Although Modern English barely distinguishes a difference between “will” and “shall,” it is no accident that the King James translators alternate the two verbs. “Will” indicates intent or purpose – we still see that in other forms of this root: “I am willing to go…,” “it is my will…” “Shall” indicates action. In this verse, the implication is that the person that wants (take action) to save his life is going to lose it. The person that is willing to lose hi life for Christ and His gospel is going to save it.)

A leap of faith presupposes a certain level of faith already existent. A person who might feel frustrated by a sense of inadequacy due to a weakness of faith should remember and implement two fundamental actions:

  1. Pray for love and faith as Mormon advised: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ…” (Moroni 7:48). As we grow in love, we grow in faith.
  2. Take seriously the Lord’s injunction to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17, I Timothy 2:8), vocally as well as in your heart (Doctrine & Covenants 136:28). Our expression of gratitude in prayer creates spiritual awareness in which we observe and witness the power and the goodness of God. That alone increases our faith.

The result of gratitude is joy. Because of the faith and love that, by nature, accompany gratitude, and because of the recognition of the love and the goodness of God that gratitude gives us, the very act of giving thanks to God or to any of His creations becomes a planting of a seed that will take root and produce a fruit that is “most precious, which is sweet about all that is sweet, and white above all that is white…and pure above all that is pure” (Alma 32:42).

Our thinking about the goodness we enjoy as children of a loving Heavenly Father increases faith and in increases joy. After all, the verbs “think” and “thank” come ultimately from the same historic root. A simple task, giving continual thanks, being thoughtful about what is good, will nearly imperceptibly bring us closer to God and His spirit, as well as provide us strength in faith unto salvation and eternal life.

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