Lessons of 2019 – November.
This is the eleventh part in a new blog-series about the lessons I’ve learned this year. Read the full into in the January post, but basically I’m sharing the stand-out lessons from the last year in the hope that they will inspire and encourage others, and I also want to urge you all to be intentional about capturing and retaining the lessons that will make you a better person. Here is November’s lesson…
November’s Lesson: It’s not happiness that makes us grateful; it’s gratitude that makes us happy.
I’ve discovered the secret of happiness. Do you want to hear it? It’s gratitude. Gratefulness makes us happy. It’s not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.
Actually I’m indebted to Rob Allin, the Stewardship Pastor at C3 Church, for these wise words, spoken in a sermon a few weeks ago. This is a man who has taught me a lot about gratitude and generosity – not least that a generous heart stems from a grateful heart – and I want to honour him by making this my lesson for November.
In truth this isn’t a radical new idea. We haven’t suddenly stumbled on some earth-shattering secret that’s been hidden for all the long millennia of human history until now. Most of us have surely heard this, or something like it, at some time or other. I’ll go further: I think most of us know this in our heads. But do we really know it in our hearts? Do we act like it’s true and live it out, or is it just a vague philosophical notion that we aspire to in our minds but forget 99% of the time?
It’s actually a Biblical idea in its origins, like most of the great truths. When we’re told in Proverbs 14:30 that “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones”, what are we being told if not that happiness stems from gratitude – it is the opposite of envy just as life is the opposite of death. Both the psalmist and the prophet Jonah discovered the secret of happiness when they turned to God with ‘grateful praise’ (Psalm 147:7; Jonah 2:9).
The apostle Paul encourages us to have gratitude in our hearts (Colossians 3:16), and to ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thanksgiving is a crucial ingredient in unlocking God’s peace (Philippians 4:6-7), and later in that chapter, when Paul says ‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation’ (4:12), gratitude for God’s blessings was a big part of that.
Money, material possessions, food, sex, nice things: these can make us comfortable and bring us pleasure, but they don’t make us happy. Wealth can make life easier, fame can give us a head-rush, cheap thrills can be found all over the place, but none of this makes us happy.
Even relationships don’t make us happy. Relationships are only as good for us as how we view them. There can be wonderful people in our lives who do lots for us, but if we’re not grateful for them we won’t be happy, even if we’re blessed. But when we’re grateful for our loved ones, for our family and friends and confidantes, that’s when the happiness flows.
Even a relationship with God won’t make us happy if we don’t let it. You can be in a relationship with God that’s defined by dread, guilt, legalism, pride or resentment. Does that sound happy to you? It’s not God’s fault, it’s yours. But if you let the love and mercy and grace and favour of God lead you into gratitude, then you’ll be happier than you ever thought possible.
You can be happy in the worst of circumstances, when people hurt you, when homes flood or cars fail, when disease strikes or money is scarce, if only you’re grateful for what you do have. And believe me, no matter how bad life seems there’s always something we can be grateful for, especially the health, relationships and running water that most of us take for granted. But equally you can have everything – more money than you know what to do with – and still not be happy if gratitude is missing.
Do you want to be happier? Be more grateful. Think less about what you lack, and more about what’s been lavished on you. What are you thankful for? And what can you do practically to be more grateful?
January’s Lesson: Don’t Worry About Tomorrow, God is Already There.
February’s Lesson: Inconsistent Parents Raise Insecure Children.
March’s Lesson: Thank God for what He is going to do, even though you don’t know how He is going to do it.
April’s Lesson: Dream Big but Start Small.
May’s Lesson: Ambition is the path to success; persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
June’s Lesson: Stop thinking about what you don’t have and start using what you do have.
July’s Lesson: Be king, for everyone is facing a great battle.
August’s Lesson: It’s the things that no one sees which result in the blessings everyone wants.
September’s Lesson: Your life will move in the direction of what you think about most.
October’s Lesson: Control your own personal narrative at the end of each day – or someone else will.
Come back tomorrow for the final part, December’s Lesson. Even better, subscribe to my blog by email and never miss another post.