The words Gratia Cantantes in Latin means: Singing About (Cant) Thankfulness (Gratia) Before (Antes).
Singing about Thankfulness Before, is firstly a mind set and secondly a way of life which acknowledges that thankfulness to God and others is the fertile ground in which to plant my life.
The interesting part in that translated phrase is the word “before”. And the idea is that I commit to train my mind to thank God “before” any situation arises; from preferences met to predicaments encountered. David’s praise reminds me to set my mind so that:
I’ll bless you every day and keep it up from now to eternity.
In prima facie, that may seem like a spurious claim; but Psalm 145 is penned by a man who did not “get God the quick way” but whose life was an arduous struggle. His sanity was often embroiled in brutal battles; ranging from white noise of ensuing trouble humming in his mind to the constant threat he sensed in the pit of his stomach; brought about by treachery, betrayal or by his own sin. But the indisputable fact is that his:
God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness
David was a man who laid it all out; to be laughed at, ridiculed, and mocked, while on the run. And through his turmoil, he had it etched in his soul that:
God always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does. God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.
It is the deliberate act of gratitude that shifts focus for the soul in tempest to the peace of Christ that rules our hearts. Even in the darkest of times, we can praise God for his love, his sovereignty and for his promise to be near us when we call (verse 18).
A Way of Life
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 contains three short and to the point orders: rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in everything. They are simple, but not easy commands; and tell us a great deal about the will of God.
To give thanks in all circumstances.
If we are going to make gratitude a way of life, we have to come to terms that God is sovereign in all of our affairs, enabling us with grace to give thanks in every situation. This command requires complete surrender and continuous abandon to worship God who holds every moment of our lives securely in his grip.
The dilemma of gratitude is that it requires humility and recognition of our dependence on others, and that does not always generate a positive vibe. And when we make a distinction between depending on God verses depending on the people that God brings into our lives, we fall into the proverbial deception of “needing only God and not his people”, because we inherently know that:
Feelings of gratitude toward people requires that I become transparent and vulnerable.
Receiving support from people can stir up related feelings of indebtedness and obligation; which can be perceived negatively and cause discomfort.
I may feel conflicted because you now have insight into the space where “my spirituality does not match my stride”. So, I may be tempted to settle for the “privacy of my pain” rather than “break the alabaster jar” and allow the aroma of gratitude to pervade your life and mine.
If we are uncomfortable with humility, dependence, indebtedness, and obligation, then we will surely struggle with expressing gratitude, even to God.
On the other end of the spectrum, ungratefulness in various degrees is characterised by an excessive sense of self-importance, arrogance, vanity, and an unquenchable need for admiration and approval. Narcissists reject the ties that bind people into relationships of reciprocity. Entitlement is at the core of narcissism. It is the attitude that says, “Life owes me something” or “People owe me something” or “I deserve this.” Entitlement and self-absorption are massive impediments to gratitude.
If I think God owes me, then I will not be inclined to thank him, but will be quick to complain when I am not given what I believe I deserve. I have traversed that way of thinking in my walk with God.
When I look at God’s gifts to me, I am often blown away by his graciousness. I have not received what I deserve. I have received far better. But I confess having a harder time with feeling dependent, even upon God. While this feeling may not support scriptural logic, it does support human frailty. My tendency toward self-reliance can get in the way of sustaining my gratitude to God and the people he brings into my life.
The premise remains; only by God's grace can we fully trust that our heavenly Father is working all things out for our good:
Thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
So, wonder no more. God’s will for us is to give thanks in every circumstance.