As another year dawns here's one piece of advice that could change your view of money for 2024 (and beyond).
Financial hardship continues to impact communities up and down the country, and the amount of money, or lack of it, has become a focus for many. But a recent scientific study has shown that there is habit that could unlock happiness and joy despite the difficult circumstances we may find ourselves in.
The habit is based upon a piece of psychology research where students at a university were asked to write down five things for which they were grateful for that week. The study revealed that those who recorded gratitude each week showed a measurable rise in their own personal happiness. Focussing on the positive aspects of our lives rather than our negative feelings really does have an impact on our levels of joy and happiness. The time-served phrase 'count your blessings, not your money' now has empirical evidence.
An attitude of gratitude
Developing a habit of giving thanks can make all the difference in life, and when you think about it it's easy to see why. Instead of passing over life events quickly, gratitude helps us to savour life, to notice and to find the joy and satisfaction in simple everyday things we might otherwise miss. Plus, if we're more focussed on being grateful and appreciative then there is less emotional space for envy or resentment. Gratitude may well help us cope better with life’s ups and downs. It’s no accident that Paul who experienced joy and sorrow in his ministry knew all about giving thanks. His expressions of gratitude to God (Romans 1:8; Philippians 1:3) sparkle like theological jewels even when he is dispensing doctrine and dealing with problems in the churches he planted.
Gratitude also opens us up to other people, remembering who and what we owe. A simple word of thanks can change our deepest relationships because gratitude stops us taking people for granted. Gratitude also helps us remember, and in financial discipleship that is especially important because it’s issues around money that we tend to forget the most quickly.
Trusting God with our money
Moses' instructions in Deuteronomy about money serve as a timely reminder about the originator of our money: “remember the Lord your God for it is he who gives you the ability to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17).
When we have a lot of money but are still anxious, even fearful, that we need more it is easy to forget that our trust and security is in God. We can practice gratitude for finances in so many ways: our monthly salary received, our mortgage or rent paid on time, credit cards paid in full for the first time. Don’t take these things for granted because not everyone can. Our heavenly Father knows we need these things; so always remember to thank him.
Developing spiritual muscle
Perhaps the best way to view this habit is to see practicing gratitude as a spiritual discipline, an aspect of discipleship. We shouldn't see it as a casual or quick fix for personal happiness, but rather as an opportunity to grow in spiritual maturity. When we exercise our physical body it becomes stronger and the same goes for our thought life. The more we practice gratitude the easier it is to flex it again in the future. And as we grow we can then take things to the next level. It's worth noting that Paul’s gratitude mentioned above was not just for himself, but for what God was doing in other people’s lives. Now that’s a different challenge altogether!
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