As Ann Voskamp begins to explain in this video and her best-selling book “One Thousand Gifts,” the Greek words eucharisteo, charis, chara, & charisma are closely linked — and so are the ideas they represent.
And they are key — not only to enjoying Euchraristeo or “giving of thanks,” to what Jesus did. Not just over a turkey dinner, surrounded by glad faces and happy future plans. Most of us struggle to even give thanks then. But Jesus did it even on the precipice of the hardest thing any human being has endured. “On the night in which He was betrayed,” what did Jesus do? He “gave thanks” (1 Corinthians 11:23, 24). Eucharisteo.
He did that in the face of the physical pain of the cross. He did it in anticipation of the emotional trauma of a friend’s betrayal. He even did it knowing the spiritual trauma of utter abandonment from the Father.
That kind of open-handed acceptance which Jesus modeled for us in His darkest hour is in keeping with what the brother of Jesus says we can do in the midst of our own trials (James 1:2). We can have joy (chara) even in the midst of difficulty.
Contrary to some modern preachers who would have us think that knowing Jesus makes all our troubles go away, Paul experienced Christ’s presence in and through great difficulty: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8).
As we learn to give thanks in all things, even the hard things, we become awakened to grace (charis). We become awakened to Christ’s daily graces, His gifts (charisma). By noticing them, naming them, we can give thanks for them. Yes, we’re back to Eucharisteo, again. And joy. They’re all connected, you see.
When we realize that all is grace — every breath, every day, all more than we deserve — we grow thankful. Less easily discontented, angry, anxious, depressed. By placing our cares in the hands of our Creator, the one who gave us this good life with all of its good gifts, we can focus our minds on all that is good (Philippians 4:4-8).
As we re-joy-s, or recount past joys, past grace gifts, we re-experience thanks giving. We do that most significantly when we remember our Lord’s greatest love gift of Himself, His very body and blood, for us. We do that when we remember other, lesser, gifts He has showered on us every day of our lives. None of it, deserved. All of it, grace.
The joyful, grace-filled, heart of thanks is one that is full to overflowing and can spill over into the lives of others. That kind of beauty is attractive to a cynical, hopeless world full of those who feel entitled but come up empty when it comes to joy. Without Eucharisteo, there is no chara, no true joy. As we let the joy of Christ overflow our lives, we’ll become beacons of hope that light up a dark and joyless world and point others to the Joy-Giver.