The quote – “It’s not happiness that brings gratitude, it’s gratitude that brings us happiness” – basically means that it is indeed possible for one to be in a happy state of mind but not necessarily in a grateful state.
If I have a million dollars in my account and someone gives me two hundred thousand dollars, that most definitely will make me happy but does it make me grateful? This got me thinking –Is there more depth to the concept of gratitude? Is happiness a prerequisite for gratitude?
Let’s use this example to understand the concept of gratitude better: a couple is travelling to the town for a church retreat, on the highway, a heavy-duty truck rams into them making their car swerve to the other side of the road causing it to then hit an electric pole, the pole, due to the impact breaks in half, bringing the life wires down with sparks of electricity flying everywhere, the couple comes out of the car that is now a complete write-off without so much as a scratch. This obviously makes the couple very thankful to God for the extraordinary way He just saved their life. Hearing this as their testimony during service will most likely stir up a stream of appreciation to God on their behalf. Gratitude most times precedes moments of thought about something positive, kind or probably something nice that has been done to or for you. In other words, genuine gratitude to God comes out of a well of what I’d like to call “deep thinking” in regards to what the lord has done for us.
Happiness is encompassed in gratitude. Being grateful therefore has the enormous capacity to make us happy. In another turn of events, is it then possible that happiness can be detached from gratitude? To an extent, it is possible and this is because it is very much convenient to be grateful to God when things seems to go well with us and slightly difficult to be grateful when situations around us seem to be moving in the opposite direction of what we want.
Using the earlier example to elaborate on this, in a situation where the husband dies in the accident and the wife survives narrowly. Probably after, months of grieving, she is now in a state of mind where she chooses to be grateful to God for sparing her life to be able to take care of their children, their business and household but it might not necessarily make her happy about the entire situation. The constant reminder that her husband’s life was lost in the same accident she survived will most likely bring about sadness whenever she attempts to show gratitude to God. This then goes to buttress the fact that gratitude goes way deeper than happiness.
Gratitude is a thing of the heart while happiness is an emotion. Being grateful can create feelings of happiness. An example from the book of Acts 16 that recounts the story of Paul and Silas shows them singing and praising the lord (an act of gratitude to God) in prison. The situation they were in I want to believe would not have necessarily made them happy.
The saying “attitude of gratitude” is a popular one that opines that gratitude is a way of thinking or feeling, whereas as Christians it should go beyond just being a feeling but it should be a life style. It should be a conscious effort on our paths to live a life that shows gratitude to God, a life that doesn’t take the grace and mercies of God for granted. The following are tips on how to live a grateful and happy life as children of God:
- We should consciously make it a habit to be grateful for the little things. Most of us take what we consider little things the lord does for granted probably because they are not “big deals”. We should always be grateful for waking up, having shelter, walking about and being able to breathe because they are not little things.
- We should always thrive to lead happy lives by surrounding ourselves with positive people and situations.
- Complaints and worry about things we don’t have or haven’t achieved has a way of stealing our happiness and joy. They make us grumpy and sometimes resentful, but when we strive to look on the brighter side of things and be thankful for what we have (even though it may not be enough), we will hardly find ourselves unhappy, resentful and ungrateful.
As children of God, when we live a life of gratitude to God and men, our well of happiness is constantly full.