Have you ever seen the movie Pollyanna? Child actress Hayley Mills starred as the orphaned daughter of missionaries who becomes the ward of her rich, embittered aunt. Pollyanna's infectious habit of being thankful transforms the crabby aunt, the crochety household staff, and the whole town!
These days, people use the label "Pollyanna" to suggest someone childishly naive in her ability to look on the bright side. But being happy doesn't require us to turn a blind eye to troubles such as gangs and crime and Columbine. Neither does it mean we chant shallow platitudes such as "Don't worry, be happy."
Like most attributes we long for (peace, patience, goodness), a happy heart takes root in the discipline of giving thanks. It's the secret weapon of the joyous Christian! But what is it about gratitude that creates a happy heart?
Happy in the Lord
Of course I was madly in love with my husband, David, when we got engaged. But that's nothing compared to the love I have for him now, after nearly 11 years of marriage. The difference? Gratitude! I'm thankful for the hundreds of times David's scrubbed the pots after dinner, for the times he's instantly forgiven my crabbiness, for the willing spirit he shows about helping my single-parent friend, for the amazing enthusiasm he brings to parenting our kids. As I think about the multitude of actions that prove David's love for me over the years, I'm filled with joy.
That's the way I feel in my relationship with God, too—and the reason I believe the Old Testament is loaded with verses that instruct God's people to "remember" his goodness, such as 1 Samuel 12:24: "Be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you."1