The Magic of Compounding
There is an investment principle that some have called the "magic of compounding." Despite economic downturns, we know it's possible to make huge sums of money by investing wisely over the course of many years. Say that you invest $100 at an average interest rate of 8 percent. In just nine years you will double your money. Without investing another penny, you will have ten times the amount of money in 30 years. A closer look at gratitude would seem to indicate that it functions something like compound interest when it comes to experiencing the peace God has for us.
For one thing, gratitude assumes that there is order and meaning in the universe, with someone at the helm. We are not mere atoms batting about in a chaotic world. Furthermore, the one at the helm is the same one who invites us to call him Father. Gratitude is an expression of our belief that God is sovereign and that he cares about us.
I have often wondered how my atheist friends can express their gratitude for something as simple as a day full of sunshine or a night crammed with stars. If the universe came into being by chance, there can be no one to thank. G.K. Chesterton called gratitude "happiness doubled by wonder." But it is hard to experience wonder in a life bereft of God.
The ancient Israelites knew the value of gratitude. David appointed Levites to give thanks to God at the moment the ark of the covenant was being brought into Jerusalem (1 Chron. 16:4). Nehemiah assigned two large choirs to sing thanks to God when the walls of Jerusalem (the city's main defense) were dedicated (Neh. 12:31-43). There are even hints that thanksgiving can be a powerful force for peace. When heading out to battle, one of the kings of Judah ordered a number of men to march at the head of the army with only one job: to proclaim their thanks to God (2 Chron. 20:20-29). Remarkably, when the king arrived on the field of battle, he found it strewn with the bodies of his enemies. While his men had been thanking God, praising him for his goodness, their enemies had turned on each other and destroyed themselves. Thanksgiving, it seems, is not only a good defense, but a good offense sometimes even creating peace by destroying our enemies.
Today many of our enemies are more internal than external. Fear shadows us. We don't have enough money. We doubt God cares for us. We suffer in difficult marriages. We've lost connection with children who have gone their own way. Too often home is a place not of peace but of continual strife. It sucks the hope right out of us.
Instead of collapsing in the face of these enemies, we can take the offensive by turning our attention back where it belongs--squarely on God and his goodness. If money is the problem, you can thank Got for all the things you do have. When relationships are painful, you can thank God in advance for the healing and restoration you hope for. Expressing gratitude in both good times and bad will remind you of all that God has already done for you. It will also help you to realize that you are not alone. You belong to a loving and powerful God, who is not indifferent to your problems.