cover image Gratitude: Why Giving Thanks is the Key to Our Well-Being

Gratitude: Why Giving Thanks is the Key to Our Well-Being

Cornelius Plantinga. Brazos, $22.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-58743-622-2

Christianity “is a religion of... gratitude, centering on Jesus’s brave sacrifice of his life,” posits theologian Plantinga (Under the Wings of God) in this astute response to the perennial question, “How can I seriously thank God when the world seems so awful?” Among other aspects, gratitude involves finding “the good in a bad situation” (those with debilitating illnesses can become “exquisitely sensitive to the offsetting blessings they enjoy despite it all,” Plantinga points out) and nurturing that for which one is thankful, including one’s faith (by “pray[ing] when we don’t feel like it... we meditate on God’s Word, hoping for a ray of light”). Noting that “gratitude triggered by the memory of goodness is a classic biblical pattern,” Plantinga cites the Bible’s many exhortations for Israelites to remember God’s “mighty hand and outstretched arm” in delivering them from Egypt. While the author’s short lists of how-tos borrow mostly from traditional self-help (writing a list of things one is grateful for; imitating others’ acts of gratitude), his observations about gratitude’s nuances and complexities resonate, as when he acknowledges that it coexists with sin and pain, something often ignored in “unrelievedly cheerful” evangelical services (“How do we thank God for forgiving our sin when we won’t talk about our sin?”). This worthy meditation on an essential state of being uplifts without sugarcoating. (Feb.)