Stories & Commentaries

The Spiritual Discipline of Gratitude

getty images stock photo of Thanksgiving table with Bible

Getty Images photography

"OK, Johnny, tell the class what you’re grateful for this Thanksgiving season.”

Teachers and parents alike seek to instill a sense of gratitude into their students’ and children’s minds. But gratitude is more than just a nice exercise at Thanksgiving. Gratitude is a weapon in the Christian’s arsenal of faith.

And as Christians, we need it in our arsenal (see 2 Cor. 10:4, 5).

Ellen White states the importance of gratitude as follows: “Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise. It is a positive duty to resist melancholy, discontented thoughts and feelings—as much a duty as it is to pray.”1 Wow! As much as a duty to pray—that’s powerful.

A former colleague of mine used to say, “We in North America have it so good that, after a while, the good starts looking bad.” While many people in North America truly experience bad, some even tragic, situations in their lives, gratitude and praise can give all of us the power to endure—and to thrive. Satan is the destroyer. He seeks to destroy everyone that he can. If he can’t destroy us, he’ll work on us to destroy ourselves.

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death’ ” (Rev. 12:10, 11, NKJV).2

Like you, I have challenges in my life. At times they have threatened to overwhelm me. And I have fallen for Satan’s lies and accusations. But I have a spiritual discipline of gratitude that is giving me the strength to overcome them. Not that the challenges aren’t still there. But my overcoming involves being able to trust God more and live by the truth that I am loved by God, He is my provider, and I don’t have to know all the steps in my future. I just place my foot in the footprint right in front of me. When it’s time, He’ll reveal the next step.

What is this spiritual discipline of gratitude?

Each morning, as part of my devotional time with the Lord, I write down seven things I’m grateful for. (I started with 10, but that was a struggle every day!) Since seven is my favorite number—and I believe it’s God’s favorite number, too!—I chose seven.

My gratitude list includes my loving, faithful, and supportive husband; family and friends; safe travels; my NAD family; the privilege of ministering; home, hot baths, waking up with no aches and pains, and uninterrupted sleep (those of you who struggle with these, you understand!); and it even includes crisp apples, fresh bread, homemade granola; opportunities, choices, abilities. And the list goes on.

It’s not always easy to think of seven things each day, but that’s one of the benefits of this discipline because it stretches me to look deeply at my life and learn to appreciate all the ways the Lord blesses me. It calibrates my mindset for the day.

As we express gratitude for the blessings we have and focus on God’s promises to us, we will discover firsthand that this is not only a good exercise. This is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of faith.


1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 251.

2 Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version, Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

— Bonita Joyner Shields is an associate secretary at the North American Division.