It’s almost Thanksgiving and if I can be honest— I don’t want to be told to “count my blessings.” With all we’ve been through the past two years, something about that phrase just feels trite and dismissive. Like when I’d go to Target with four babies, and they’d all begin to meltdown in tears or snack or poops and an older woman would say to me, “treasure every minute with them.” It made me want to scream! It feels like my very real current struggles are being completely ignored.
Gratitude doesn’t have to feel like that. This year I want you to spend time not only preparing logistics for the big day but also preparing your heart for it.
Gratitude is actually a powerful spiritual practice that rescues us.
It pulls us out of cynicism, negativity and blindness to God. It gives us a new way to see what’s around us - maybe one that’s more real than how we look at our lives every day. It is not (just) a fleeting emotion we feel when someone helps us out, or something falls into place, or we catch a glimpse of a previously hidden blessing. Gratitude is not just felt emotionally, it’s practiced intentionally: it’s a deliberate reflection that becomes our ongoing disposition. And as it does, gratitude heals.
We can deliberately practice gratitude and become healthier spiritually and physically. Not only my personal experience tells me this—the Bible and modern psychology are entirely cohesive: gratitude is so very good for us, both inside and out.
It’s correlated with lower stress levels, less depression, and less neuroses. (And who wouldn’t want to set down a few of those?!) It’s not just neurological health. The Bible claims gratitude as a key to spiritual health as well. Psalm 92:1 says, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” When God showed up in the flesh on earth as a man named Jesus, his life overflowed with gratitude in both good and bad moments, embodying the instruction in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks.” In everything! Everything means everything.
Whatever you are facing, there is a way to give thanks straight through it. You can empower your own healing in the midst of anything with gratitude. The more I search for God in thanksgiving, the more I find him at work.
Gratitude heals disappointment.
Gratitude is a statement of certainty that the work of God will not be thwarted even through pain and loss. I think back to the moment in 2020 where I completely lost it over schools and businesses remaining closed for months on end—the loss of work for my husband, the end of my grad school graduation, the loss of opportunities for my kids they’d worked hard for…. Who didn’t have one of these moments, amiright? I know loss has looked like sickness and death of all kinds for you and probably continued into 2021 in many ways. Jesus also knew loss. He lost one of his closest friends. He wept over his death. And then he expressed gratitude—just before raising him from the dead! Gratitude can co-exist with hurt and loss. Gratitude also doesn’t diminish the power of God to resurrect absolutely anything from the dead. We can always thank God for his power to return anything that has been lost.
Gratitude heals bitterness.
Ever tempted to blame God for taking things from you or delaying what you’d like to have? Gratitude pushes off the build-up of bitterness and sees ways that God is providing. Gratitude finds enough with what the world says isn’t enough. Jesus said a prayer of thanks when facing a crowd of many thousands and then offered up to God the small snack he had in his hands. God multiplied that food and fed everyone there! Gratitude looks past our poverty to a God who owns it all.
Gratitude builds resilience.
We’ve heard plenty about immunity recently, right? Gratitude is like that: it increases our body’s ability to resist toxins upon future contact. You will be disappointed again; lose again; face death again. Gratitude chooses to see a good God in the middle of bad things. It builds trust in a God that’s bigger and above all—good. “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good.” (Psalms 136:1). The next time we confront whatever toxin comes at us, we’re stronger in spirit. Jesus grew in such strength and trust in the goodness of his Father that he actually said “thank-you” just before undergoing the unbelievable suffering of being killed on a cross! The more I continue to develop a disposition of gratitude, the easier I find it to resist mistrust, anger, or negativity that rises up in me.
Thanksgiving is not just a day with some turkey—it’s an act of warfare against what wants to kill your soul —disappointment, bitterness, and mistrust in God.
I think you should take the week before Thanksgiving this year and give 10 minutes every day to gratitude. I believe this will completely change your heart by the time you arrive to eat your turkey. I don’t care if you make a pretty list in a journal, speak it out loud or make a text thread with a few friends: just practice gratitude this year intentionally. Fight for yourself. Go after your own emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Let’s DO some thanksgiving and finish 2021 better off.
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
What strikes you most about this article? (Whatever jumps out to you might be the beginning of hearing from God. Lean into it, and see where it goes.)
How do you feel about being grateful this year? What comes easily? What are the barriers? Be as honest as you can.
If gratitude is coming easily, great! Make as long and specific a list of thanks as possible. If it’s not coming easily, you might need another step first—grief. Sometimes we need to try a different biblical idea first: Cast all of your cares upon God (because He cares for you.) Sometimes we’re so burdened by everything that isn’t working, and we need to get it all out before we can see anything else. So make a list of everything on your heart, and imagine handing it to God. Be open to hearing something from Him when you do.
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