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Happiness Doubled by Wonder

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G. K. Chesterton

We say “Thank you” so frequently and automatically that it becomes all too easy to have the phrase mean nothing. “Thank you for holding the door.” “Thank you for waiting.” “Thank you for inviting me over.” The words become more the rote fulfillment of an obligation than conveyors of any inward reality or emotional outpouring.

G. K. Chesterton gives us a fresh view of thanks, claiming that thanksgiving is “the highest form of thought.” Why? One reason is that thanksgiving brings us outside of ourselves. You cannot be thankful for something you did for yourself: you are thankful for something someone else did for you. For the Christian, thanksgiving is ultimately God-focused, looking to the one who is the Divine Giver. As such, thanksgiving reinforces a proper view of God and of ourselves, and in fact puts us in positive relationship and communication with God himself.

Chesterton goes one step further, then, by defining gratitude as “happiness doubled by wonder.” True thanksgiving can never be mere words: it encompasses and reflects the soul. Gratitude is an upwelling of the heart, and a realization that “every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).

  • Have your prayers of thanksgiving to God become dry or automatic? If so, why?

  • Spend time thinking about the blessings that God has given you. Consider what your life would be like without them – the void and emptiness and pain and hardship you would experience in their absence.

  • Write out a prayer of thanksgiving in the form of a psalm, going into detail why you are thankful for each blessing, and expressing that thanks to the best of your ability.

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