Live Gratefully

Psalm 92 begins: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.  For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” 

There is something about looking around at the works of God’s hands—the beauty of nature—that fills our soul with joy.  Gratitude swells up within us as our hearts thrill over the majesty of what we see and feel. 

Rachel Carson observes, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” 

John Muir remarks, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

When our souls respond with gratitude to nature’s beauty, something amazing takes place within us.  Joseph Addison states, “There is no more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude.  It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance.” 

I find it fascinating that Psalm 92 begins with praise to God for the works of his hands—the beauty of nature—but in the closing verses, when the psalm looks around for beauty, what captures the psalmists eye is not mountains or waterfalls or flowers or wildlife but the beauty of human goodness: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.  In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

As there is incredible beauty in the wonders of nature, there is also incredible beauty in human goodness.  As it is good for our hearts to delight in the beauty of nature and to express gratitude for it, so it is good for our hearts to delight in the beauty of human kindness and to express gratitude for it.

Kristi Nelson, the Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living suggests, “Grateful living asks us to connect with those things that matter most deeply to us, and to recognize these commitments as an integral part of our ongoing effort to make life better for all.”  Perhaps this is why Psalm 92 moves from an expression of joy over the beauty of nature to a call to us to live righteously—because “grateful living asks us to connect with those things that matter most.”

Kristi Nelson goes on to recommend these responses to gratitude:

  • Grateful for democracy?  Uphold it.
  • Grateful for diversity?  Protect it.
  • Grateful for our Earth?  Care for it.
  • Grateful for freedom?  Defend it.
  • Grateful for love?  Spread it.
  • Grateful for justice?  Fortify it.
  • Grateful to community?  Nurture it.
  • Grateful for peace?  Live it. 

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