What moments will you savor and embrace?
Ultimately, living gratefully is about more than simply appreciating what you have; it's about delighting in the opportunity to give to others. True gratitude ignites compassion. When we understand that the ultimate goal of providence is happiness and unity with God, we realize that this kind of love wants to be shared. Living gratefully increases our awareness of the beauty and blessings that are constantly unfolding around us, and thus inspires us to share those blessings with others.
Inspired by Emanuel Swedenborg's book Divine Providence, Living Gratefully is a seven week program that explores the concept of providence through a lens of gratitude for God's constant, loving presence in our lives. You can start your own exploration at any time, with our 5 week email program, with readings, insights, and opportunities for reflection. Or start your own small group in your church or community, using the Living Gratefully workbook (available in paperback or eBook versions).
Each of the seven weeks explores a different gift that God provides all His children:
- Gratitude and happiness (introduction week)
- The gift of freedom
- The gift of change
- The gift of love
- The gift of inspiration
- The gift of uncertainty
- Wrap-up week
Week one: gratitude and happiness
How a Grateful Life Leads to Happiness
Divine providence (the gentle, loving guidance of God) is always leading us toward peace and happiness. When we awaken to gratitude, we realize that no matter the outward appearance of a situation, there is a loving, wise undercurrent that is gently carrying us toward true happiness. We simply need to allow ourselves to be carried. We can practice experiencing this kind of gratitude by taking time each day to notice the good things in our lives.
Week two: the gift of freedom
So that we can be ourselves
The first gift of divine providence is freedom and the rationality to use our freedom well. The gift of rationality means that, as humans, we have the ability to think deeply, to examine our feelings, thoughts, and actions, and to distinguish between truth and falsity. The gift of freedom means that we have the opportunity to choose those feelings, thoughts, and actions that best serve our spiritual well-being. We feel most free when we put love first by doing what we love and focusing on sharing that love with those around us.
Week Three: the gift of change
So that we can be Transformed
The second gift of divine providence is the ability to change through the process of repentance. According to Swedenborg, repentance is an active process that includes self-examination, prayer, and deliberate change. This gift of change is closely related to the gift of freedom. When we freely choose to make positive changes in our lives and to stop hurtful or damaging behaviors, we open ourselves to allowing God to change us from the inside out. These positive changes lead to lasting happiness, the ultimate goal of divine providence.
Week four: the gift of love
So that we can Connect with Others
The third gift of divine providence is love. Love, especially love for others and for the common good, is the motivating force behind lasting change. It is an essential law of providence that we should never feel compelled by others to change, or to take on new beliefs, especially in regard to religious ideas. Instead, the inner part of us, where our deepest love exists, has to compel the outer part of us toward positive change. In this way, our strongest love acts as our strongest motivating force, guiding us toward joy and fulfillment.
Week five: the gift of inspiration
We are Taught and Inspired by Love and Wisdom
The fourth gift of divine providence is inspiration. Inspiration is wisdom from the Lord. It is a law of divine providence that we be led and taught by the Lord's wisdom. Although it seems that we are independent, we are receivers of life, it flows into our souls from the Lord. Anything beautiful we create or anything wise we might say comes from the Lord. With love and inspiration together, we are in the best position to lead a full and useful life.
Week six: the gift of uncertainty
Because the Wonder of Life Lies in the Unknowing
While the gift of inspiration allows us to receive new insights, the gift of uncertainty allows us to be grateful for what we don't yet know. Not knowing awakens hope, faith, and trust that the Lord is in control and that everything really is leading toward good. In fact, it is a divine law of providence that we don't know what's ahead, because having such knowledge would limit our freedom. By remembering the gifts that uncertainty brings, we can allow ourselves to let go of anxiety about the unknown and instead be fully present to the beauty of NOW.
Week seven: wrap-up
Over the course of the program, we've practiced having gratitude for freedom, change, love, inspiration, and even uncertainty. Because gratitude wants to be shared, it often inspires us to reach out and serve others in new ways. By acknowledging the things that we are grateful for, we discover new opportunities express our gratitude by "paying it forward."
A small group is a gathering of people who commit to meet on a weekly basis to explore their faith and support each other in applying that faith to life. Small groups usually include prayer, a time for checking in, and discussions or related activities.
- Start your own! It’s easy with the step-by-step Living Gratefully workbook, which includes instructions for small group leaders and participants alike.
Are you a pastor, program director, or small group leader? Visit our New Church Journey leaders page for leader information and resources.
Questions? Contact us by email at [email protected].
This website contains a wealth of information about the New Church, and a practical, spiritual path to happiness. Read more about the beliefs of the New Church, as well as more about Emanuel Swedenborg.