The Power of Gratitude


“They’re not angry. They’re just grateful.” That was how one volunteer described the desperate people he was rescuing from Hurricane Harvey’s flooding.

I watched as the news showed two Good Samaritan’s navigating flooded Houston-area streets in a motorboat. Images flashed across the screen. Victims who had been rescued—a baby in his mother’s arms, young children drenching wet, and bewildered older women.

Shortly after seeing this short news clip, I went to bed. Ninety minutes later, I was up, unable to sleep. Again. It was discouraging. When I can’t sleep, I can’t get up on time. I can’t get my work done. I’m more stressed.

Then I remembered those two simple sentences: “They’re not angry. They’re just grateful.”

Rebuke. Guilt. Confession.

Why do I choose to complain when I have so much to be thankful for? I’m not fleeing a flooded house. My schedule hasn’t been interrupted by a natural disaster. I am not losing my worldly goods to a watery grave.

Expressing gratitude is difficult because genuine gratitude must grow out of humility. Pride produces complaints. Pride claims rights. Pride grows expectations.

It’s like a balloon. When we pull a balloon from the package, it’s empty. This is the right. Let’s call it the right to be happy (it could have other names such as the right to be secure, right to be healthy, right to have a family). Then I blow into the balloon. Then more. And more. Each time the balloon expands.

These are my expectations. The right to be happy may lead me to expect that my husband will offer to take me out to eat when he sees I have too much to do, or that God won’t let it rain on a day that I need to drive somewhere because I can’t drive in dark, rainy weather, or that people will return my calls because I need some information from them.

I keep blowing more and more air into the balloon. I keep adding to my expectations.

What will happen to my balloon? If I don’t let go of it first, it will pop with a bang. What will happen to my right that I claim? If I don’t yield my right to God, confessing it was never mine to claim, it will blow up in my face. Someone will let me down.

Instead of getting angry when my balloon pops (when my expectations aren’t met), I can give it up. It’s called humility.

Then I can express gratitude for what I do have, because it’s a gift. It was never a right. I never had any claim to it. I can thank my husband when sees I have too much to do and he offers to wash dishes. I can thank God for whatever weather He brings. I can thank others for the information they supply. I can choose gratefulness when I leave the prison of rights and expectations.

This week the gratitude of some folks in Houston impacted my life here in Michigan. Do you suppose that your gratitude could have the power to effect the people in your life?

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