“If your soul is healthy, no external circumstance can destroy your life. If your soul is unhealthy, no external circumstance can redeem your life.” —Pastor John Ortberg
Our task is to write blogs that offer perspective on soul keeping. And so we do our best to reach down into the vast trove of collective wisdom from our shared faith traditions to find time-tested treasures for the soul. Certainly near the top of the pile would be a life of gratitude. Thornton Wilder once wrote, “We can only be said to be fully alive in moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
The healthiest human beings we have met in our years of serving as caring professionals can all be described as people of deep gratitude. They are aware that graces too numerous to count are streaming through their lives each day—to sustain them, to provide for them, to enrich them. Gifts are coming at them from all directions all day long. They try to capture what they can of this cavalcade of grace by offering words and thoughts…expressions of thanksgiving. And the interior layout of their souls seems to be somehow altered as a result. There is a buoyancy to these people, there is joy, there is wholeness, there is shalom.
We know a young lady who decided one day to record words of thanks for something new each day. Her initial goal was to see how long she could go without repeating herself. Each night she would make a new entry into her gratitude journal Then she would review the last 50 entries before she went to bed. The last time we checked in with her, she was somewhere in the vicinity of 1,200-1,300 entries without repeating herself. If our math is correct, that is between three and four years of lines recorded on her pages. Apparently, we have a lot to be thankful for. It should come as no great surprise that this young lady walks around with a heart overflowing its banks with gratitude.
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hikarat hatov which means literally, “recognizing the good.” When we are determined each day to recognize the good in our world, our souls are elevated into places of great adventure, of light, of joy, of discovery. And it is really hard for grateful hearts to share their space with despair, anger, resentment, fear, entitlement and anxiety. They just can’t seem to coexist.
We once knew a man who read a short phrase from the Apostle Paul, “Give thanks at all times” and decided to make it the guiding principle for his life. His life was far from easy. But as a result, he was one of the most emotionally healthy human beings we’ve ever met. What else can we say? A life of gratitude is a healthy, happy life. Gratitude is very good for the soul.