The book of 1 Thessalonians says “Always rejoice, pray without ceasing, in all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
In one of the advises which St. Paul to gave the Thessalonians in what might be the first Biblical epistle he wrote has always resonated with me.
He suggests that there’s a close relationship between three realities which are: happiness, a life of prayer and holiness, and gratitude.
And then, thanking God in all things, as the saints have taught, is a common means to grow in happiness and holiness.
Secret of happiness
According to St. Gianna Molla, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and then to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness”. Because, St. Gianna had come to realize that each circumstance of life is a gift from God, for which we need to thank Him: As the Book of Romans says, “To them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Romans 8:28).
This is because thanking God for all things means that we appreciate His Presence and Love in all circumstances of life. This is what enabled St. Therese of Lisieux, at the hour of her death, to say, “If you find me dead in the morning, don’t be troubled: it is because Papa, God, will have come to get me. Without a doubt, it’s a great grace to receive the sacraments; but when God doesn’t allow it, it’s good just the same; everything is a grace ” (Her Last Conversations , p. 57).
St. Therese saw God above all things, and to see God is the source of happiness in this life, also it is the basis of eternal happiness in heaven.
Secret of holiness
According to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, he taught that growth in holiness is only measured by growth in love for God. So he went further to enumerate four stages in the growth of love (On the Love of God), and it’s not a hard to thing to see that gratitude plays a vital role in making progress in these stages.
1. First, we ought to love ourselves selfishly often not even aware of the presence of God in our lives.
2. As we recognize our own insufficiency and sinfulness, we start to notice the good things we receive. In gratitude, we turn to God and start loving Him but still selfishly, because of the good He does for us.
3. Then, as we see beyond the gifts to the Giver, we learn to often appreciate them because they are His blessings. And we come to love God for His own sake, being thankful for Who He is.
4. Lastly, as we recognize and accept even sufferings as gifts from God, we learn to gratefully embrace every circumstance of life as part of His loving plan for us.
We start to see ourselves as He sees us, and wish to become the persons He wishes us to be. We start to love ourselves for the sake of God and to love God not only in Himself, but in ourselves and in all He tells us! So, we can say, as St. Paul said, “And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me!” (Galatians 2:20).
Get a help from Cardinal Newman
If you ever struggle to see the loving hand of God in your life, this wonderful prayer by Blessed John Henry Newman can help:
O my Savior, I believe that Thou knowest just what is best for me. Therefore, I elieve that Thou lovest me better than I love myself, that Thou art all-wise in Thy Providence, and all-powerful in Thy protection. I am so ignorant of what is to happen to me in time to come; but I entirely resign myself to my ignorance, and thank Thee with all my heart that you have taken me out of my own keeping, and have forbidden me to put myself into Thy hands.
I can ask nothing which is better than this, to be in Thy care, not my own. Therefore, I protest, O my Lord, that, through your grace, I will follow you wherever you go, and I will not lead the way.
I will wait on Thee for your guidance, and, on obtaining it, I will act upon it in simplicity and without having anything to myself.