Formula for Gratitude

In this mathematically minded age we should analyze our feelings of thankfulness in terms of a fraction.

Let the top (the numerator) represent the multitude of blessings each one of us can count. But our gratitude does not depend only on the number of our blessings. There is another factor that is just as important. That is our opinion of what we have deserved. We might call that the under side (denominator) of our fraction. We always evaluate our blessings by comparing them with that. No matter how many our blessings may have been, if we think that we have deserved more we will be, not grateful, but discontented. As our sense of gratitude is directly proportional to the number of our blessings as we are aware of them, it is also inversely proportional to our opinion of what we have deserved.

This frequently overlooked under-side of the fraction, if we may call it so, takes an important place in the psalms of praise in the scriptures. Those who teach us to sing God’s praise remind us of how little we have deserved as mere creatures.

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars. which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” Psalm 8:3,4

“As for man, his days are as grass;” Psalm 103:15

These psalms reveal an even keener awareness of how lacking in merit we are as sinners. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins, Nor rewarded us after our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10

No matter bow relatively many or few our blessings may have been, the more realistically we come to appreciate our lack of merit, the greater will be our appreciation of the grace of God. An awareness of total depravity prompts us to total thanksgiving for God’s immeasurable grace. It is no accident that Calvinistic New England with its biblical appreciation of these things produced the tradition of a Thanksgiving festival.

May we in our thanksgiving celebration learn, in the same spirit. to reckon with both the multitude of our blessings and the lack of our merits that our thanks to God, the Giver, may be the greater.