“With Gratitude in your Hearts”
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Will you pray with me? Good, and gracious God, we are grateful for the lives that you call us to lead and we give you thanks today for all those gathered here and all those whom we love. May these, my very simple words, be pleasing in your sight, O God. In Your Son's name, I pray. Amen.
Thinking about how even the most elaborate language is yet so limited, the concept of ‘being grateful,’ and ‘being thankful,’ runs through my mind as we approach Thanksgiving. What is the difference between them? Finding a definition implied some doing, as many sources seemed ‘unsure’ of the answer themselves! A few examples: “The dictionary defines gratitude as a state of being grateful; thankfulness. Gratitude is a noun. Thankfulness is defined as aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful. Expressive of gratitude. Thankfulness is an adjective.” The , I went to a different website, and read another set of definitions and found the exact opposite to be true. That you are thankful for a green light when your late for work and you are grateful for your health and your family.
Finally, after much examination of both words, I have found that one is about “feeling,” whereas the other is indeed about “expression.” Many spiritual leaders mention how important it is to be grateful. We then see this as an actual thing.
We are GRATEFUL (noun). However, to demonstrate our gratitude, to express that, means to BE THANKFUL (adjective). Sound confusing? (When I started this, I had no intentions of giving a lesson in English grammar… but here we are…) This can be rather perplexing, until we realize that both imply there definitely is a difference between being grateful and being thankful.
Thankfulness always has to have a receiver and a giver, something or someone who has caused this moment of thankfulness. Gratitude, however, implies that we are just in that state of Being, that we have that FEELING; the basic difference is that being thankful is always for something given, while being grateful only requires developing that state of BEING… being grateful for WHAT IS.
With this thought in mind, there are 2 verses in the Bible which command us to be grateful or thankful. One is Colossians 3:15-17 ( And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.) and the other is in Hebrews 12:28.
But you may be thinking, "Isn't there a passage in Thessalonians, which says we should give thanks always for all things?" That's right, we are commanded to give thanks. But there is a difference between being thankful and giving thanks. Being thankful is something you are, thanksgiving is something you give.
God is concerned about the giving of thanks, not just being thankful. He doesn't want our thanks because He needs it, but because we need it. It's good for us to say out loud what we feel in our hearts. Think about it tomorrow, when you go around the table and share what you are thankful for. Give thanks for specific blessings with your lips, and then see if you're not more thankful for those same blessings in your heart.
Once I understood the the difference between being thankful and giving thanks, I began working to figure out how to describe them. What do they look like? Do they have a smell? A taste? How do you know that someone is truly grateful? That they truly are thankful? I came across a story online yesterday morning about a Sudanese man that helped me to put it all together. The story began back in 2012 when a Sudanese woman showed up in Forth Worth, Texas, pregnant and with her two small children. Her husband couldn’t make the trip, unable to leave the refugee camp because the couple had lost their marriage papers while fleeing war. They had to find a way to prove they were married and that the children were indeed his. The man, Dyan, feared he would never see his family again.
Four long years later, Dyan finally resolved the issue and was cleared for travel to America and see his wife and children – including meeting his now three-year-old for the first time. After seeing his family for the first time in four years, after meeting his 3 year old son for the first time, after embracing his wife and feeling her arms around him, Dyan was so overwhelmed with gratitude that he dropped to his knees, kissed the ground, lifted his hands in the air and gave thanks with a simple prayer. There wasn’t a dry eye at the baggage claim of DFW airport.
Being grateful is that feeling that you get. For me, I feel warm all over and like I can’t help but smiling. I feel as though the feeling is going to burst out of me and I want to share it with everyone that I know. That feeling may be different for you. But we all need to know that being grateful isn’t reserved for those long-lost reunions, like Dyan & his family. You can be grateful and thankful for the little things. Being greeted by a stranger with a warm smile, or when someone special surprises you with your favorite coffee out of the blue. Be thankful and give thanks.
I have the privilege of watching people each week experience gratitude. I’m the Assistant Director at Loaves & Fishes Food & Resource Center and each week we serve an average of about 200 families. When clients come in, they are greeted with a smile by a volunteer receptionist, they are invited into conversation with an intake volunteer, and they are guided through the pantry by a volunteer shopper helper. Each client is called by name and treated with dignity and respect. I get to see them when they walk in and also when they leave. Sometimes, when our clients arrive to our facility they haven’t eaten in several days, and when they leave, their cart is stacked high with food. I get to see their faces transform during their visit and I see them leaving with a smile on their face. Many of our clients leave with THAT feeling. They are grateful, they are happy, and they know that when they get home they have food to feed their families.
I know that our clients are thankful. They are thankful that they have food to feed their families. They are grateful that they were able to select the food that they will feed their families. They were able to shop in the pantry just like you might shop at Jumbo or the Walmart Neighborhood Market. Our clients also give thanks. Not only do they say thank you to the staff and volunteers, but they also tell their friends. They share our story with neighbors and friends. They send us cards or leave notes with our volunteers telling us that they thank God for Loaves & Fishes.
I am grateful for the clients that we serve and I give thanks for them, too. I’m grateful that they set aside pride and ask for help when they need it. And I give thanks that there is a way that they can be assisted with food.
Loaves & Fishes isn't the only organization that serves grateful clients. If I worked at CDSA, the Community Clinic, Hope Outreach, United Way, Youth & Family Services, or any of the other non-profits in our community, I'd be able to tell you stories about how my clients are grateful and give thanks. No matter who we are, we all feel grateful and give thanks.
And so, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Amen.