If at night, we toss and turn in bed and cannot sleep, we recall Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas song: “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep; and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.” The song makes us aware of the endless gifts God has given us, thus our endless thanksgiving to Him.
We owe everything to God. We thank Him for big and small things; for what we like and what we do not like; in good times and in bad times.
When things go wrong, what do we have to be grateful for? Why do we have to thank God for the bad things in life: death of a loved one, financial loss, lingering sickness, a difficult spouse, or a problematic child? These seemingly “bad things” are actually permitted by God to produce a greater good. For example: The unexpected death of a young man caused sadness to his parents; yet God actually took him at the best time when he had just gone to a retreat and confession. Or a great financial loss caused so much discomfort and tension; yet it brought the family unity, opportunity for atonement, and growth in many virtues such as industriousness, patience and detachment.
Moreover, we should think that the bad things could have been worse (something which we cannot accept). “Thank God, I was only robbed but not killed.” “Thank God, I have poor eyesight; at least I can still see.” “Thank God, my husband has a bad temper; at least he does not beat me up or my children.”
A grateful person is humble, while an ungrateful person is not. A humble person realizes that he is nothing and that all things come from God. A proud person, on the other hand, finds it hard to acknowledge the favors done to him because he thinks he deserves them. That is why the first element of gratitude is to recognize the favor received.
There is a story about a man who lived in a cave, where he removed a thorn from the foot of a lion. Because of this, the lion was grateful and would even share his food with the man while he was in the cave. Years later this man, having been charged with a crime, was condemned to be eaten by wild animals in the amphitheater. At the time of the execution, a lion which was
recently captured was released to eat the prisoner. Instead of eating him, the animal recognized his former benefactor. He was happy and leaped on him like a dog to his master. The judges, on hearing this story, released both man and lion. The lion then followed his master through the streets of Rome (without hurting anyone) until his death.
There are also true stories of horses shedding tears or even starving themselves to death at the death of their masters, and also stories of faithful dogs and cats. If animals, with no other guide than natural instinct, can show their love and gratitude for their masters, how can man, possessing intelligence, lack gratitude towards his benefactor?
The second element of gratitude is to express our appreciation and thanks. We can say many short prayers of thanksgiving. They may be taken from the Bible or composed by ourselves: “Salamat sa Diyos” or simply, “Thanks, Jesus”. We say “thank you” as often as we can remember, the moment we wake up, before closing our eyes at night. We thank our Lord not only in words but also in deeds. Thus the third element of gratitude is to repay the favor according to one’s means. But we, who have nothing, can give nothing to God who has everything. What our Lord wants is that we give Him our love. We repay Him by avoiding sin (even venial sin) as it greatly offends him. We also repay Him by winning others to Christ, by being faithful to our vocation and duties in life. Holy Mass is a supreme manifestation of gratitude; thus, we prepare and live it as best as we can.
Thanking God actually adds nothing to Him; instead it does more good to us. By thanking Him, we are actually increasing our love for Him. Let us develop this attitude of thanksgiving to God at all times.
(Reference: “The Sinner’s Guide” by Venerable Louis of Granada)