The primary holiday that dominates November (even though it’s at the end and in spite of the stores already getting out the Christmas stuff) is Thanksgiving (this year on the 27th). Our church calendar starts the month off with another important observance: All Saints Day (the 1st). The first is a national holiday that celebrates the blessings and beginnings of new life for those who came to this new land. The other is a holy celebration of the beginnings and blessings for those who, through death, have begun a new chapter in their lives in Christ.
Thinking about those two celebrations, I was wondering: Is there a difference between “thankfulness” and “gratitude”? I went to the dictionary first. The definition of the first is: the expression of gratitude for a benefit. Gratitude is defined as: the quality of being thankful. These definitions seem to say that being thankful can simply be an occasional act while gratefulness is more a state of being. These definitions highlighted the thought of DJ Wilson in his article “The Principle of Gratitude”: The basic difference is that being thankful is always for something given (at a given moment) while being grateful only requires developing the capacity – being grateful for what is.
Obviously not all of life is positive. Being thankful for a moment filled with joy and goodness is certainly appropriate, like we do on Thanksgiving Day as a nation. Being grateful for all that happens in life, understanding that the Lord promises good even from those circumstances that are difficult, trying and maybe even deeply distressing (like the death of someone we loved) calls for a distinctive view of life. Faith in the Lord does that. That, I believe, is the reason for the Apostle Paul urging all to make thankfulness a quality practiced daily, not matter what. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Give thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)
Is there a difference between “thankfulness” and “gratitude”? Maybe! But maybe not! Especially if we work at and pray for the grace to receive all of life, each day and every circumstance, as a gift that the Lord will use to bring blessings and even new beginnings for us and for those we share this wonderful journey of life.
This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:24)
Rev. Jimmy Lee Werley