Gratitude and Joy

“One of the most profound changes in my life happened when I got my head around the relationship between gratitude and joy,” writes Brene Brown in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life. She had always assumed that joyful people were grateful people because of all the blessings in their lives. But instead, she discovered the following through her research:

  • People who described themselves as joyful, attributed their joy to their gratitude;
  • Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were tied to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us; and
  • While happiness was explained as a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances, joy was understood as a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.

St. Paul illustrated the joy that comes from a spiritual practice of gratitude when he wrote the following words from a jail cell: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice…do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).

Paul reminds us that gratitude is as much an attitude as an emotion. It comes from a determined commitment and intention to notice the blessings of life, and to focus on the good even in difficult circumstances.

After Chernobyl, Tania Luna was a young refugee forced to flee her native homeland of Ukraine. Her family was so poor that even the smallest good she experienced seemed like a great blessing. Finding a penny made her feel like a millionaire, and a homeless shelter seemed to her and her family like a hotel. As a grown woman she is doing better now than she ever dreamed, but she reminds us that joy and gratitude often have little to do with external circumstances, but everything to do with attitude and perspective. Click here to listen to her short compelling story:

On Sunday Nov. 23rd at 7:00pm we have the privilege of honing our spiritual practice of gratitude by hosting an interfaith Thanksgiving Community Service with other congregations in Burbank. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know our neighbors in faith through worship and dessert fellowship time afterwards.  What joy we might know–not just once a year, but on a regular basis–if we looked at all the blessings of our lives, no matter what our circumstances, no matter how big or small, as reminders of God’s abundant grace!


In gratitude,

Pastor Gretchen Bingea