1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.
If I could offer a magic potion that could transform you, make you happier, more productive, and more optimistic, and would cost you nothing and require little effort, would you be interested? Well, I have some good and bad news. The bad news … I don’t have a potion that will do that. The good news … we don’t need a magic potion, just follow the advice of that Bible verse, and in particular that last part – “give thanks in all circumstances”. Be thankful for all of it, whatever it is.
Not only does the Bible ask that we be grateful, but science recommends it. Research tells us that an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is associated with: Greater happiness, more optimism and positive emotions, new and lasting relationships, better health, more progress toward personal goals, fewer aches and pains, more alertness and determination, increased generosity and empathy, better sleep, and improved self-esteem.
Gratitude is an important key to finding success and happiness in the modern day. Knowing what we appreciate in life means knowing who we are, what matters to us, what makes our days worthwhile, and places us in a positive frame of mind. Research demonstrates that focusing on what we are grateful for is universally rewarded by feeling happier and more fulfilled.
Here are five reasons why gratitude benefits us so much.
1. Gratitude attracts what we want. The spiritual law of attraction says that we attract into our life the things we think about and focus on. When we are consciously aware of our blessings, and are grateful for them, we are focusing more clearly on what we want in our life - and are attracting more of those things to us.
2. Being thankful builds relationships. Think about those people that you know who are most appreciative of you - and let you know it. How do you feel about them? Does their appreciation positively impact our relationship with them? Yes, and those feelings flow both directions: We can be grateful for people, their contributions, their talents and their actions and let them know how we feel.
3. Gratitude reduces negativity. It is hard to be negative about our situation when we are thinking about things for which we are thankful. One of the fastest ways to improve our mood or outlook is to count our blessings.
4. Gratitude improves problem solving skills. Too often we look at problem solving with a very jaded view. "Something is wrong. We have barriers in our way. Then, we have to put in effort to fix it." Conversely, when we think about what we are grateful for we open our minds up to new possibilities and connections. We also enter a problem-solving situation with a perspective of improvement and opportunity rather than challenge or issue.
5. Gratitude helps us learn. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Behind every problem lies an opportunity. Being grateful for our situation - even if we don't like everything about it - allows us to be thankful for the opportunity to learn something new.
There is often a connection between prayer and giving thanks. A quick and powerful prayer is, “Thank You, God”. And maybe that is the value of Thanksgiving Day to me; to help me remember specifically who and what I am thankful for. Are we thankful for our family, all our family? It’s easy to be thankful for the loving, giving, kind family members. But what about the ones that have hurt us or who push our buttons? Can we find some way of being thankful for them? Can we find a quality or characteristic for which we can be grateful? If nothing else, how about, “Thank You God for opening my eyes to ways not to behave. Thank You for showing me the contrasts, thank You for helping me make beneficial and productive choices.”
Are we living with someone who means the world to us, but we don’t let them know? Part of giving thanks is expressing it out loud to the person for whom we are thankful. The words may change – I love you, I appreciate you, I thank you – but it is about being grateful.
Are there other people for whom we are thankful – friends, associates, people who open a door for us? It is customary to smile and say “Thank you”. But often we don’t say it. We’re embarrassed or we think it is unnecessary, or not politically correct. I don’t know why people don’t say ‘thank you’ more often for the blessings they receive.
For some, it may be because they feel like they deserve it or are entitled. For others, I think it is fear. They are afraid to say ‘thank you’ because it reveals too much about them…a softness or weakness. Maybe they will be asked for money or be taken advantage of because of their vulnerability. But I have found that when I open a door for someone and they look at me and say, ‘thank you’, it reveals their personal confidence and willingness to express God through them. I feel good. If someone shyly says, ‘thank you’, and doesn’t look at me, or they say it because that is the convention and is what we are supposed to do, there is no God energy; it feels incomplete and vacant. An opportunity is lost.
Sometimes we become so focused on our own lives and our own needs, we ignore others. It’s not necessarily because we are only thinking of ourselves; it’s because we are not thinking about anyone else. To say, ‘thank you’, whether to God or another person, is to acknowledge something outside of ourselves; it is to take our focus off ourselves for a moment and place it directly onto someone else. If someone does something nice for us, Spirit whispers to us to look them in the eye, smile, and say thank you. We don’t have to intimidate them with our personal power, just a sincere expression of thanks is all that is necessary.
Who are you thankful for? I encourage you to let them know. Verbalize it, write it, or email it. Let them know you appreciate them. In addition to people, what things in your life are you thankful for? What conditions?
It is so easy to dwell on the negative, the lack, the uncertainty, the pain, the injustice, and certainly it is important to offer all that to God in prayer, and then the rest of the time focus on what is right in your life. Did we wake up this morning? Did you know that according to the World Fact Book (CIA) 151,600 people worldwide didn’t wake up today? But we did. Thank You, God!
What is right in our life, what is good and productive? What would we miss if it was removed from our life? A sunset, a budding flower, a rainbow, a laughing baby, the moon rising. A shooting star, a good book. The telephone and other technology we have. What would we miss? A warm bed, warm coat, our favorite shoes, our house, our refrigerator? Be grateful for the simple, obvious, and overlooked things. There is completion and wholeness and perfection in showing our gratitude. There is God-flow.
Gratitude is an attitude. Gratitude is a choice. And gratitude is a habit. When we consciously practice being grateful for the people, situations and resources around us we begin to attract better relationships and results. The habit strengthens as we apply it.
It reminds me of a story: A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a few coins in the hat. A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.
Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?" The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but differently." I wrote: "Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it."
Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply stated that fact. The second sign spoke to our hearts; it tells us that we are blessed to have sight, and subtly suggests that we be thankful for what we have.
Some people will tell us their lives are miserable, and they always have been. We often hesitate to ask these people how they are; they might tell us! What these hurting people can’t acknowledge is that they have enough energy to speak and clarity of mind to share their opinion. They are clothed. They probably ate breakfast or lunch. They may have bathed and slept in a bed.
There are times when we dwell in self-pity, when our ego is totally in control and blocks the light of God. We will not hear of anything good in our lives. We are anxious about everything and do not take the time to be thankful. Indeed, there is no room in our hearts for gratitude when we are filled will self-pity, fear, and negativity. Although we will all visit that state of mind, we don’t have to live there. We can challenge that critical inner voice. “I hear you; I acknowledge you, and enough is enough. Be quiet now.” When life gives us 100 reasons to cry let us respond with 1000 reasons to be grateful.
In the Bible, peace and contentment are often the fruits of a thankful heart. When we are grateful, we experience more peace. Things don’t bother us as much, because we start to see how all things fit together to make a whole; we are part of the completeness, and what we experience is part of the wholeness and perfection of God. When we can release our anxiety about anything and give thanks for everything, then we will know the peace that transcends all understanding.
I pray that this week, and all of your days, are filled by Christ with calm, with peace and contentment. I pray that you are blessed with a quick "Thank You, God" ever ready to escape your lips, and an open heart ever ready to enjoy the magic of gratitude. I pray for each of you a spectacularly joyous Thanksgiving Day.