If things were the answer to happiness, the people of the United States would be among the happiest people in the world. Instead, the opposite appears to be true. As a nation we lead the world in most of the statistics that are not complimentary of a nation. Divorce, addictions of all kinds, incarceration per capita, mental illness, and abuse of prescription drugs are just a few of the unflattering categories that we either lead or are near the top. None of these things reflect a happy image. The obvious question is, “Why in a country that has so much is there so much unhappiness?”
The mental health professionals and sociologist have written volumes addressing the problem. Apparently, their efforts are not getting us any closer to the answer. At the risk of being simplistic, I would like to submit one important factor that is often ignored. It can be described in three words, lack of gratitude. We have become a nation of people who expect much and appreciate little. Our want list seems to always exceed our thanksgiving list. We give lip service to gratitude but our actions show that we are not really as grateful for what we have as we are covetous toward the things we see others have and we want. A simple test of our attitude of gratitude would be to time the moments we spend giving God thanks and the time we spend asking God to give us something.
It appears to me that a new word has taken the place of gratitude in our vocabulary. The word is entitlement. A sense of entitlement can be seen in every level of our society. The problem with entitlement is that it leaves no room for gratitude. Why be grateful for something that is rightly yours to begin with?
The point is that we have little for which to be grateful when we assume we are entitled to everything we have. If we are not grateful for what we have, our chances are extremely high that we will not be happy. I am not sure where the following statement originated but it expresses the problem of unhappiness in America: “There is a secret to happiness and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.”
Paul understood this concept when he wrote, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:6-18 NASB). Paul’s point was that we should always look for the things we can be thankful for in whatever situation we find ourselves. I do not know where you are today. It may be a really difficult time for you. Whatever your situation take a moment and go to God and ask Him to show you all that you have to be grateful for. It will help to replace a frown with a smile.