Is Gratitude Always Easy?
I pray you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend of family, way too much food, and tremendous joy and laughter. And I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for writing about gratitude on this week following the holiday.
I’ve prayed a lot over what to publish this week. My posts were directed toward prayer for the last 8 weeks or more, and I’ll transition into a short Advent series next week. So I sought the Lord and asked, “What do you want me to share this week?”
I felt the Spirit prompt: Gratitude.
Since it seems everyone writes about gratitude in November, and because this is the week after Thanksgiving… I resisted and tried to think of another topic.
But a friend encouraged me to listen to the Spirit’s prompting. Maybe, she said, you can come from a new direction – from left field – as you write. At that moment, I knew how this post would look.
Because 2017 hasn’t exactly been an easy year. While we’ve experienced great blessing, we’ve also encountered some difficult transitions, some unexpected turns in our path, and some very uncomfortable conversations – especially over the last 6-ish months.
When Gratitude Doesn’t Come Easily
I know that you’ve had some difficulties in your year as well. Tough medical situations, decisions from kids that are less than pleasant, abandonment, outrageous confrontations, and so much more than I can name.
We don’t always feel like giving thanks, do we?
Yet we’re instructed to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes 5:18). When we’re feeling anxious, we’re taught to pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).
The Lord’s Example of Gratitude
Consider the example Jesus gave at the Lord’s Supper:
“On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’” (1 Cor 11:23-24).
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave thanks.
What a powerful testimony. Jesus knew all that He was about to encounter in the future: betrayal, abandonment, torture, shame, ridicule, even death on a cross. He felt the full sting of every assault in His past (rejection, confrontation, attempted manipulation, scorn, and more). How did He respond? He gave thanks. At the Last Supper, He instructed us to do this (give thanks, break bread) in remembrance of Him.
Jesus does as He instructs. The King of the Universe gave His life for us and in the hours leading to His crucifixion, He gave thanks. It’s hard to fathom. Yet, our instruction is to follow suit. To give thanks in every circumstance, just as Jesus did while He walked the earth.
Benefits of Gratitude
As with all things commanded in the Scriptures, gratitude is good for us – physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Go figure that God would use something He instructs for our good (I’m hoping you’ll catch my sarcasm there).
Researchers have identified that those who express gratitude – the “appreciation for what is valuable and meaningful in life” – experience lower blood pressure, increased immune strength, a reduced risk of depression, stronger mental health, reduced anxiety and substance abuse, and can more effectively cope with stress.
Gratitude propels us in peace, love, and kindness (see Colossians 3:12-17). It spurs us on in joy and good works. It helps the light of Jesus shine before others so they might see God in us. Even – please hear me well on this point – even when we don’t feel like expressing it but choose to do so regardless.
Ironically, gratitude fuels gratitude. As we begin to focus on the things, the moments, the people for whom we’re truly thankful, it seems we start a tidal wave of so much more. Soon, our minds are filled with positive, pleasant thoughts and memories. Our hearts seem to swell and the corners of our mouths curve into a smile.
Gratitude stretches far beyond the Thanksgiving holiday. When we practice it daily, when we thank the Lord for all He provides – to include trials and the purpose that He has in them – we can embrace a multitude of God-ordained benefits – gifts from a Heavenly Father who adores us.
A Challenge in Gratitude
My challenge to you this week: When you feel crabbiness or negativity begin to grip your mind, fight the feeling with thankfulness toward God. Begin to list – either mentally or on paper – the things for which you’re grateful then wait with expectation for favorable results.
Do all you can to make it a habit. Proclaim your thanks every day, and let that light shine. In all things, give thanks.
Above all, fear the Lord and worship Him faithfully with all your heart;
consider the great things He has done for you.
1 Samuel 12:24 (HCSB)
 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/11/17/4-reasons-gratitude-good-you/875588001/ accessed November 17, 2017