Gratitude is one of those abstract concepts that everyone can recognize when they see it but that few can define precisely. Much could be said about the proper definition of gratitude, but when we consider its place in the Christian life, G.K. Chesterton’s words certainly bear repeating: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder” (The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, p. 463).
“Happiness doubled by wonder” is a marvelous way to phrase the proper response to what Jesus has done for His people when we consider the abyss into which we were born in this world. Building on his admonition to give thanks for the great inheritance provided to us in Christ, Paul describes what happens to all those who put their faith in the Savior. By faith we appropriate the work of Jesus that delivers us from the “domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13–14; see also Gal. 3:1–9). No matter how “good” we or our parents are, all of us are born into this world as children of Adam, cut off from blessed fellowship with God — the purpose for which He made us (Rom. 5:12–21). The Bible describes this condition of being in Adam as being in a realm of chaos, darkness, evil, and judgment — a dreadful state of misery wherein we were dead in wickedness and willing servants of the Devil (Eph. 2:1–3). There is no escape from this hopeless condition apart from divine intervention. Since nothing in us could move the Lord to save us, the fact that He graciously acted to rescue us anyway is a fact that is beyond comprehension and marvelous beyond words (Rom. 5:6–8). Once we realize how far from Him we actually were before we knew Jesus, the only response we can give is, indeed, “happiness doubled by wonder.”
Being rescued from the kingdom of darkness, we have been transferred to the “kingdom of his beloved Son” — the kingdom of light in which we have the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13–14; 1 John 1:5–7). This rescue and transfer was the great event the prophets foresaw, the redemption out of the darkness and exile of sin into which Israel, as a picture of all mankind in Adam, had fallen despite having access to the oracles of God (Isa. 42:5–9). And what is so great about this rescue from exile is that God in Christ has saved not only Jews but also Gentiles from their hopelessness.
Adam, despite the benefits of Eden, fell into sin. Israel, despite the benefits of the Promised Land, fell into sin, thereby demonstrating the drastic measures that had to be taken to restore men and women to fellowship with the Creator. If we are in Christ, we have been rescued from utter and hopeless darkness, and, being children of light, have been empowered to walk in the light in imitation of our Savior.