This is the third in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.
Want a healthier heart? Count your blessings.
How about a better night’s sleep? Write them down in your gratitude journal before bed.
If you want to be more optimistic, make new friends and get more exercise, make a point of expressing your thanks many times a day.
Research shows us that gratitude is good for our hearts, helps us sleep better, builds our relationships and improves our physical health. There are so many benefits of counting our blessings every single day! We begin to feel more alive when we take a moment to actually remember all the good things we’ve been given. But what about when things aren’t going too well?
How do you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving when you’re wrapped up in the whirlwind of stressful day-to-day demands?
How do you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in a season of loss and grief?
When you’re alone or disconnected? In poor health or experiencing scarcity?
When the stories in the news point to tragedy, evil and seemingly impending doom?
If we’re completely honest, our personal set of circumstances and the global state of affairs can make us feel unsettled. Then October rolls around and we are reminded to feel thankful for the safety of our homes, the satisfaction of our full bellies and the health of our loved ones, but it’s often only because we know it could be much worse. We see lives falling apart around us and feel thankful that we have been spared that kind of suffering, so far. We consider our own difficulties and wonder if things really will be alright after all.
That opportunity to choose to be thankful in the middle of difficulty is good for us. It leads us to the understanding that our thanksgiving needs to be anchored in something much greater than our circumstances or the changing times we live in. We’re not thankful because of what we have or don’t have – we’re thankful because God is good, all the time, and He will always keep His promises.
As Christians, we understand God’s Word to be His revelation of who He is and the primary way we get to know Him. Creation reveals Him as Creator, Jesus reveals God as Father, His Word reveals His character, and when we put our faith in Christ and become filled with the Holy Spirit, He is revealed through His very presence in our lives.
That’s how to begin to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving, no matter what we’re facing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the story Jesus told about the Wise and the Foolish Builders in Matthew 7:24-29 (NIV) —
“ ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
The rain will fall, the streams will rise. Giving thanks in the middle of it all takes supernatural power! In this season, let’s move beyond breathing a sigh of relief that we aren’t worse off and begin to understand what it means to build our lives on a solid foundation that won’t crumble under the weight of changing circumstances and the negative news cycle. Let’s discover true thanksgiving that fills our hearts with gratitude no matter what we’ve faced in the past, what we’re staring down in the present or what may come in the future, so that we can say with Paul in Philippians:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)