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Intentional Gratitude

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

by Anita Miles

I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

Psalm 9: 1

A few weeks ago our family sat in the bleachers at one of the most amazing animal shows that one will ever see. I couldn’t focus on the show because I was enjoying the gasps of excitement and the glow of my kids' eyes more than the synchronized movements of the dolphins we were watching. I had seen the show before but this was a first for my 6 year old son. And he was utterly amazed! The entire day - hours after we had left this ‘magical wonder’ - his heart was still just exploding with excitement and gratitude over the fact that we had brought him to see such an amazing display of nature. Throughout the rest of the day, at random times in unexpected moments, my husband or I would feel his little arms wrap around us with tight hugs to remind us how grateful he was that we had allowed him this memory. If you ask him now (weeks later) if he enjoyed the animals, his face still lights up like a Christmas tree and his animation kicks into gear and his brain can’t keep up with the excitement he still feels.

This year has brought our family TONS of changes. Those changes came with their share of stress, decisions, and hard work. Really hard work! But every morning that I roll out of my bed and walk to the kitchen to start preparing school lunch for my kids - I almost have to pinch myself at the wonder of the dreams fulfilled in my life. I walk outside on my porch and the quiet solitude and lack of traffic flowing in front of my house make my heart feel so content. I sometimes feel like my 6 year old and wish I could throw my arms around God just to let Him know how much gratitude I feel for the way He has worked in our lives. I never want to forget that feeling or begin to believe that I somehow deserve the life that I’ve been given. I want a heart that is always thankful.

We are entering the season of being intentional in giving thanks. I want every day to be filled with a heart of gratitude. I know there are severe consequences in the lives of the ungrateful and unthankful - and I don’t want to go there. EVER! Can you imagine the changes that could come to our homes and to our nation if we could focus on having hearts of gratitude?

A thankful heart has a domino effect. There are spiritual and physical changes that happen when our hearts are full of gratitude.

I was reading an article a while back from the Cleveland Heart Lab that used research from the University of California - San Diego. Their research studied a group of patients with a particular condition of heart failure. The initial discovery of the research showed that the patients who were the most grateful, slept better, were less depressed, had less fatigue and were more self-confident. They also had less chronic inflammation in their blood vessels that prevented their condition from worsening at a more rapid rate.

The second part of their study included asking the patients to start a gratitude journal and write down 2-3 things every day they were grateful for for 8 weeks.

I quote the Cleveland Heart Lab research article, “At the end of the study, patients who had kept the journals had lower inflammation levels in their bodies than patients who didn’t keep the journal. They also had an increase in heart rate variability, another measure of good heart health!”

I dare to conclude that if gratitude can change the physical processes of our heart - how much more can it improve our spiritual lives?

Scripture has a lot to say about an unthankful heart. If we really, REALLY believed and applied what God said about being unthankful in our personal lives - the Christian world alone would be transformed. One man said that to interpret Romans 1:21 would be to conclude that “an unthankful heart is the cornerstone of all sin!” Again, just as a thankful heart has a domino effect - so does an ungrateful heart. It leads to a progression of sins - according to Romans 1 - that eventually leads to a “full scale rebellion of God.” If we rebuilt that cornerstone in our lives with a thankful heart - just think of how much better we would represent Christ and His Kingdom. I want a heart that is overflowing with gratitude. I don’t want my life built around an unthankful spirit. I want my eyes on the goodness of God.

If we take our eyes off the goodness of God, we hit the first domino and there they start to fall. We begin to focus on others and maybe what they did or didn’t do (offenses). What they have that we want (covetousness). After a while we begin to lose the ability to see the divine opportunities that are right before our eyes. We start to long for more temporary things and are no longer satisfied with God. This progressive darkness leads to ultimate darkness. And this is not God’s plan or will for any of our lives. It causes the Spirit of God to withdraw from us - not to mention we’re pretty miserable for everybody else to be around as well…

So are you up for the challenge? Email me in about 8 weeks after you keep your journal!

Tell me how it changes you! It’s impossible to develop a heart of gratitude and walk away unchanged! Let’s be intentional in our gratitude.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow to realize that the children of Israel who wandered for 40 years never got to see the Promised Land because of their murmuring and complaining. I do NOT want that to be the story of my life…

I dare us to let people who usually see our grumpy side watch us transform into someone who glows with a thankful spirit and a kind heart. This is a good month to turn over that new leaf! We’ll call it “Intentional Gratitude.” After all - every action we take in our Christian life should be intentional. We’re living with purpose - and a thankful heart is a major piece to a fulfilled life - as well as part of our worship.

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