This past week I stumbled upon the 365 Grateful project.
In 2008, a depressed woman named Hailey Bartholomew began taking one Polaroid photo a day of something she felt grateful for. According to Hailey, this simple exercise had a remarkably positive affect in her life. Not only that, as she posted her photos on Flickr, this project spread almost virally and began to impact the lives of many others.
365 Grateful is now the title of a documentary, “a film about uncovering what happens when ordinary people unlock the remarkable powers of gratitude…”
You can learn more about Hailey’s story and the documentary by watching this short video.
(If you’re reading by RSS or email, you may need to click here to access the video.)
Gratitude. The heart of faith.
As I considered the 365 Grateful project, I began to consider the implications of gratitude and the Christian faith. I concluded that you cannot be a Christian and ungrateful.
After all, how can it be possible for a person to express faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their sin bearer and Saviour, and at the same time be ungrateful for what God has done for them in Jesus Christ?
…you cannot be a Christian and ungrateful.
In regards to salvation, an ungrateful person may have failed to see just how devastating and desperate their current situation is, and therefore see nothing to repent of or their need for a Saviour. For them, there is nothing in the Gospel to be grateful for.
Alternatively, they may in some respects see the desperation of their current situation, but fail to see value or a solution in Jesus Christ. For them, there is nothing in the Gospel to be grateful for because in their thinking, it doesn’t work.
Either way, gratitude is at the heart of saving faith. Their ungratefulness demonstrates their lack of saving faith.
Are you grateful?
Most of the people who read this blog are Christians. I expect when I ask if you’re grateful, all of you will answer with a resounding, “Yes!”. You may even wonder why I’d ask such a question to Christians, especially after writing that gratitude is at the heart of saving faith.
Well, I ask this because rather paradoxically, I also concluded that you can be a Christian and ungrateful. Huh?
…you can be a Christian and ungrateful.
3 causes of ungratefulness in a Christian
As I considered the Gospel, and the example of the 365 Gratitude project, here are three causes that can lead a true Christian to experience ungratefulness:
You may be ungrateful if you’re forgetful.
Christians are renown for their forgetfulness. God’s people always have been. Consider the words of the Psalmist:
“Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” (Psalm 106:7-8)
It’s also very easy to live like we’re not grateful for the work of Christ as we trust in ourselves or try and improve upon the work of Christ. I wrote about my struggle as a functional Pharisee recently.
The only antidote to ungratefulness due to forgetfulness is the Gospel.
You may be ungrateful if you’re too focused.
It’s possible for a Christian to have an experience like Hailey from 365 Grateful. I don’t know if she is a Christian or not, but we can be so focused on the negative things we’re experiencing, or so focused on the big constant things in life like work pressure, school examinations, house work, etc., that we fail to see the many things we have to be grateful for.
God is the giver of all good gifts (cf. James 1:17), whether it be eternal life, companionship, children, music, clothing, air to breath, medicine, warm food on a cold day, etc.
It would do us all well, as Christians, to broaden our focus to see the many things all around us for which we should be grateful, and to then give thanks to God as the giver of these gifts.
You may be ungrateful if you’re futuristic.
I’m not referring to being futuristic technologically or culturally, or even how a Christian may read the Book of Revelation necessarily. A Christian who is futuristic has their gaze set predominately into the future, to the eternal city.
Being futuristic may sound like a lofty goal, but if our gaze is predominately ‘there’ then we fail to see and acknowledge the good gifts given by God in the ‘hear and now’. If we don’t see them, we can’t be grateful for them, and we won’t then give thanks to God for them.
It’s possible this is essentially the same cause as being too focused. The first focuses on one thing, normally a negative thing, in this life and doesn’t see what else is here. While the other sees nothing here, and focuses totally on the world to come.
What are you grateful for today?
May our forgetfulness fail, and instead may our gratefulness for the work of Jesus Christ in the Gospel shine.
May our focus be broadened, and our gaze see the many things today for which we should feel grateful.
May we not stunt the fruit of gratefulness by only being thankful for the good gifts in and of themselves, but in prayer and praise be thankful for and acknowledge the good gift giver, God.
What are you grateful for today?