Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

19 March 2009

In Pursuit of Gratitude - (2) Gratitude and Contentment

For some, being grateful comes easily - in all seasons. For others it can be hard work, a neglected discipline or only pursued when times are good. But what exactly is gratitude?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines it this way:

The quality or condition of being grateful or thankful; the appreciation of and inclination to return kindness.

It seems a good thing to pursue. And it brings benefits - because contentment and gratitude are good friends. If we are truly, sincerely thankful about something then we will experience a measure of contentment because of it. The more we can find to be thankful for, the greater our experience of contentment.

So, for the record, what then is contentment? The OED says,

Pleasure, delight, gratification, a source of satisfaction or pleasure. The fact, condition or quality of being contented; tranquil happiness.

Well, that sounds OK to me. Definitely worth striving for!!

The relationship between gratitude and contentment can be found in the Bible. Take another look (because you have already read it at least once it in my sidebar!) at this small passage from Philippians.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Notice that thanksgiving is flanked by joy and peace. And we are instructed to be thankful even in the anxious moments - thankful for the situations we find ourselves in, thankful that God is sovereign over them, thankful that we are able to pray about these (and all) things and thankful above all else that despite what might be occurring in our day to day lives, we have the assurance in the bigger picture of eternal peace with God because of His work through Jesus.

As I have said before, I have not always been good at this. In fact I have had times when I was downright discontent, grizzling my way through life and finding nothing for which to be grateful. I imagine I am not alone. But developing an attitude of gratefulness is definitely worth pursuing because it does bring contentment – and of course the recipient of your gratitude will be blessed and encouraged too.

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