Some expressions of gratitude to God from Etty Hillesum, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Kathryn Tanner, and St. Augustine.
Etty Hillesum on Gratitude
"Perhaps, oh God, everything happening together like that was a little hard. I am reminded daily of the fact that a human being has a body, too. I had thought that my spirit and heart alone would be able to sustain me through everything. But now my body has spoken for itself and called a halt. I now realize, God, how much You have given me. So much that was beautiful and so much that was hard to bear. Yet whenever I showed myself ready to bear it, the hard was directly transformed into the beautiful. And the beautiful was sometimes much harder to bear, so overpowering did it seem. To think that one small human heart can experience so much, oh God, so much suffering and so much love, I am so grateful to You, God, for having chosen my heart, in these times, to experience all the things it has experienced." - Hillesum, Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork, 197-198.
See also: Etty Hillesum, A Prayer for Thinking Hearts
Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Gratitude
“One is grateful for the little things, and that is surely a gain.” - Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers, 57.
“It is a strange feeling to be so completely dependent on other people; but at least it teaches one to be grateful, and I hope that I shall never forget that. In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” - Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers, 154.
“… the dearer and richer our memories, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy. The beauties of the past are born, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves…” - Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers, 238.
“There is no true knowledge of God’s gifts without knowledge of the mediator, for whose sake alone they are given to us. There is no genuine gratitude for nation, family, history, and nature without a deep repentance that honors Christ alone above all these gifts.” - Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 63.
“We thank God for what God has done for us. We thank God for giving us other Christians who live by God’s call, forgiveness, and promise. We do not complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what God does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough; other believers who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of God’s grace?” - Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 36.
Kathryn Tanner on Gratitude
“The glorification of God does not come at the expense of creatures. The more full the creature is with gifts the more the creature should look in gratitude to the fullness of the gift-giver. The fuller the giver the greater the bounty to others.” - Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity, 3.
Karl Barth on Gratitude
“Thus human freedom is freedom to respond with thanksgiving. It is the freedom of the Christian man whom God shoes to be His partner and whom He does not abandon. God does not expect from man more than this gratitude, this faith, and this love. Nor does He expect less, and He certainly expects nothing else! For this service of thankful obedience, for this participation in the cause Dei, God has set man free.” - Karl Barth, The Humanity of God, 82.
St. Augustine on Gratitude
Exposition of Psalm 39, Verse 4: "I bend my whole effort to follow after the prize of God’s heavenly call"
"Forgetting what lies behind, I strain to what lies ahead. [The Apostle Paul] would not say he was straining ahead if he had already reached the goal; for the mind stretches out in desire for the thing it longs for, not in delight over what has been attained. Straining to what lies ahead, he says, I bend my whole effort to follow after the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14). He kept on running, for he was intent on winning the prize. In another text he speaks from a point very close to the winning-post: I have run the whole course (2 Tm 4:7). When he said, I bend my whole effort to follow after the prize of God’s heavenly call, he was already well onto the right path, because his steps had been guided on the rock, so he had matter for thanksgiving and also something still to ask for; he gave thanks for what had been given and pleaded for what was still owing. What had been given already that moved him to gratitude? The forgiveness of his sins, the illumination of faith, the strength of hope, the fire of charity.”
Exposition of Psalm 134, verse 2: "No sufficient recompense to offer to the Lord for such great favors"
"Whoever reflects on [the gift of salvation] with due gratitude thoroughly belittles himself when faced with the love of his Lord, from whom he has received such immense gifts. He can find no sufficient recompense to offer to the Lord for such great favors. So what is left but to offer him thanks, though this is no adequate requital? The best expression of thanksgiving is to take the chalice of the Lord and call upon his name, for what return can a servant make to the Lord for all he has given? Let us heed the psalm, then: You who stand in the Lord’s house, in the courts of the house of our God, praise the Lord.”
Augustine’s Confessions, pg. 116-8: "Unhappy is anyone who knows it all but does not know you"
“Lord God of truth, it surely cannot be that simply knowing these things renders a person pleasing to you? Unhappy is anyone who knows it all but does not know you, whereas one who knows you is blessed, even if ignorant of all these. Nor is anyone who knows both you and them more blessed for knowing them, but blessed on your account alone, provided that such a person recognizes you as you are, and glorifies you and gives you thanks, and does not drift off into unsound reasoning. Someone who knows enough to become the owner of a tree, and gives thanks to you for the benefits it brings him, is in a better state, even if ignorant of its height in feet and the extent of its spread, than another who measures and counts all its branches but neither owns it nor knows its creator nor loves him. Similarly a person who lives by faith owns the whole world's wealth, for though he may have nothing he possesses all things if he but clings to you, the master of them all: he may have scanty acquaintance with the wheeling paths of the Great Bear, yet it would be foolish to doubt that he is better off than a man who measures the sky and numbers the stars and weighs the elements, yet leaves you out of his reckoning, you who have disposed all things according to measure and number and weight.”
Augustine's Confessions, pg. 342: "Who made me and did not forget me when I forgot you..."
“Upon you I call, O God, my mercy, who made me and did not forget me when I forgot you. Into my soul I call you, for you prepare it to be your dwelling by the desire you inspire in it. Do not forsake me now when I call upon you, who before ever I called on you forestalled me by your persistent, urgent entreaties, multiplying and varying your appeals that I might hear you from afar, and turn back, and begin to call upon you who were calling me. You have blotted out all the evils in me that deserved your punishment, Lord, not requiting me for the work of my hands, by which I defected from you to my own unmaking, and you have anticipated all my good actions, rewarding the work of your own hands that made me; for before ever I was, you were; I did not even exist to receive your gift of being; yet lo! now I do exist, thanks to your goodness. Over all that I am, both what you have made me and that from which you made me, your goodness has absolute precedence. You had no need of me. Am I so valuable as to be a help to you, my Lord and my God? Did you will me to serve you so that you might be spared fatigue in your work, or because your power might be diminished if my homage were wanting to it? Nor did you will me to pay cult to you as I would cultivate the earth, as though you feared to stay uncultivated for want of cult from me! No, you command me to serve you and worship you that it may be well with me of your bounty, who have granted me first to exist, that I may enjoy well-being.”