1 Peter 3:15b: “Always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Gratitude Builds Hope
Before we can engage in potentially life-changing relationships with those who do not know Christ or in healthy one-another relationships with other believers, our hearts must be transformed by the hope-giving power of the gospel. Salvation is the beginning of our transformation in the ongoing process of sanctification.
As I counsel and mentor women and teens, I am often struck by the lack of hope that both believers and non-believers express. I am even more struck by how often I can deny the hope that I say I believe is true.
It is easy to understand why a non-believer expresses hopelessness, but harder to understand why a believer expresses hopelessness. As I have engaged with these believers, and as I think about my own unbelief, I have noticed one overriding theme within our inability to acknowledge the hope that we possess in Christ. It is this: A lack of gratitude. Without gratitude, we will feel hopeless because hope and gratitude are closely connected. You can’t have one without the other. Gratitude builds hope.
Picture a conversation with a friend who is grumpy, negative, and pessimistic. The glass is always half-empty. Think of the gloomy character from Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore. Is this the type of person who exhibits hopefulness? No, because this person’s behaviors and attitude are the result of an ungrateful heart. They remind us of the important lesson of Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
People who rarely express gratitude reveal what is in their hearts. Believers can easily fall into this ungrateful attitude if they focus more on circumstances and self than on the gospel. Only the gospel can transform an ungrateful heart into a truly grateful one. The gospel is the reason for our hope. A foundation of gratitude is needed in order to have hope and before we can share hope with others.
Peter tells us to “always be prepared.” Part of that preparation is being grateful for all of God’s good gifts, starting with the amazing gift of the gospel – Jesus.
Giving thanks is not just a good idea, it is much more than that. It is God’s will for us: “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When gratitude does not come to mind automatically, we must still choose it. Note that Paul says “in ALL circumstances.” What does ALL mean? It means ALL! You might be tempted to say, “But wait, what about my illness or my broken relationship? Am I to be thankful for those things?” Read the verse again: “…give thanks IN all circumstances…” That is different from thanking God for sickness, although I believe that you can thank Him for that, too. Perhaps you have read The Hiding Place with Corrie ten Boom’s account of the flea infested barracks that she and her sister, Betsy, lived in at the Nazi concentration camp. They had been able to smuggle in a Bible. As they read it, Betsy became convicted about thanking God for everything, even the fleas. Corrie wasn’t certain at first, but soon they were thanking God even for the fleas. Why? Because of those fleas, the guards left them alone and the women were able to study God’s Word right there in the middle of that camp. Many women came to Christ as a result.
There is much to learn from that profound account of the fleas. If we encourage others to be grateful for the fleas in their lives (financial problems, marriage struggles, depression, anxiety, loneliness, all of life’s struggles), we will be building hope in that relationship because gratitude builds hope.
Hope Builds Relationships
Without gratitude, what else do you have but grumpy, cynical pessimistic Eeyore? Where is the hope in that attitude? Why would anyone want to spend time with you? Being ungrateful will hinder your ability to build relationships. It will prevent you from convincing people that you believe the gospel is true or that it applies to their sin and suffering. Gratitude displays the gospel to others, while being ungrateful is a denial of the gospel.
God offers us real and lasting hope, a hope that not only points us to our eternal life but also gets us through the difficult struggles in life right now. We are promised a future filled with hope (cf. Jeremiah 29:11), because hope is a part of God’s plan for us (Romans 15:13). When we exhibit this hope to others, it is winsome and encouraging. Those around us will want to know the reason for the hope that we have.
Relationships Build the Kingdom
In order to cultivate gratitude in your own heart, there are some practical things you can do:
- Read and meditate on God’s Word regularly, by yourself and in the your local church. Learn doctrine and theology so that you are prepared to engage in gratitude-based discussions with those who do not know Christ and with believers who need to revisit the hope that they have in Christ.
- Engage in a rich and regular prayer life. If you are not acknowledging God, you will not be grateful.
- Be in fellowship with other Christians who exude gratitude. Those who exude gratitude also exude hopefulness. The more you are encouraged to be grateful, the more grateful you will become.
- This may sound like a cliche, but it is actually a profound and worthwhile exercise: Keep a gratitude journal. Write down three things every morning and three things every night for which you are thankful. This discipline will force you to focus on the many things you should be grateful for on a daily basis. It will also give you something to look back on and recall what God has done in your heart and life. I assign this as counseling homework, and I purpose to do this myself as well.
Hope in our relationships reflects the gospel to a world that needs to know Christ. To share the reason for the hope that we have means that we must cultivate gratitude in our own hearts and then build it into our relationships. As a result, God’s kingdom grows.
Gratitude builds hope, hope builds relationships, and relationships build God’s kingdom!
Join the Conversation
How are you building hope in your relationships?
Are you prepared to share the reason for the hope that you have?