By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
It’s so easy to give thanks when things are going well. Maybe you got that promotion you were praying for. Or God answered your prayers and your child’s fever has gone down. Maybe your medical test was negative. Those times make us shout from the rooftops how good God is, and how he is worthy of praise. But I want to tell you why declaring your gratefulness is a great idea right now.
Gratefulness and Worry Cannot Coexist
When we are grateful, our hearts are focused on what God has done for us. Our eyes are in the right place. When David faced the Philistine, his mind went to an earlier time when he was in trouble and God stepped in. David was grateful when he faced Goliath because he remembered that God is immutable, and that meant if God helped him before, David could count on him to help him now (1 Samuel 17:37).
David was not trusting in his own strength, nor was he trusting in the armor that Saul had provided for him (1 Samuel 17:38-39). David was not worried, but instead, he knew God was almighty and he would be with David. David didn’t cower like others who stood and watched. David ran to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:48-50).
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Gratefulness Is Obedient to God
God wants us to be grateful children. He tells us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Does God want us to give thanks when we are in the midst of troubling times? Does he expect us to give thanks when we’re uncertain of tomorrow? Yes!
God wants us to give thanks in all things because whatever we face, God knows about it. We may be surprised by what we go through, but God is not.
God is omniscient, which means he knows all things. There will never be a time when we go through something and God is surprised. God knows when even a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29-31). The God of the universe notices sparrows, knows how many hairs are on our heads, and then reassures us that if he cares about sparrows, he certainly cares about us.
When God asks us to be thankful in all things, it’s because we are trusting that he is bigger than anything.
Gratefulness Makes Us More Positive
We get to choose what we focus on. And while we can always find something to gripe and complain about, the opposite is also true.
We can always find something we can be thankful about. You might say, “But you don’t know what I’m going through right now.” And I’d have to agree with you. I don’t know, but God does. And even though you may be facing something really difficult, or heartbreaking, you don’t face it alone. God promised he would always be with us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
And our attitudes affect those around us. When we are positive, people react a certain way towards us, and if we are negative, it may be completely different.
The circumstances of our lives don’t have to determine what our attitude is. What we think about affects our attitude, and Paul gave us a list of things that we should focus on: whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). But Paul didn’t just tell us, he often showed us, like when he would be in prison.
Did he sit there feeling sorry for himself? No, he sang (Acts 16:25-31).
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Gratefulness Even Helps Us Physically
I used to love it when a news show would feature centenarians—people who reached 100 years of age. Often people in this age group are asked what their secret is, and I’ve heard many say it's being grateful.
Greater Good Magazine raised the question, is gratitude good for your heart? A study found that people who feel appreciation (an emotion related to gratitude) have improved heart rate variability, an indicator of good heart health. Gratitude helps people sleep, and leads people to engage in other behaviors that help keep them healthy as well.
Gratefulness Helps Us See God
When we start to give God thanks, that desire grows within us. We start thanking him for one thing and we’re reminded of other ways God has been there for us and answered our prayers. Gratefulness helps us notice God’s fingerprints all over the place. We are encouraged to see how God provides for our personal needs. He even dresses flowers (Luke 12:27-28). We’re told that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:16-17).
And when we have a need, we know from God’s Word that he will provide for those needs, for he is Jehovah Jireh, the one who provides. Paul reminds us that not one of our needs will be unmet (Philippians 4:19).
Gratefulness Brings Peace
How many times have you been reminded to count your blessings?
Whenever we focus on how God has blessed us, we can feel our anxious thoughts start fading. Paul encourages us to not be anxious about anything, but to bring our prayers and petitions to God and we’ll have the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
I think it’s noteworthy to add we are to bring those petitions to God with thanksgiving. We’re not dropping off a list of things we want God to fill, but instead, we will share our hearts with gratitude, knowing it is by God’s grace that we receive anything.
As we reflect on what God has done for us, we don’t have an attitude of entitlement. Even when we approach God’s throne room, it is with reverence for who he is and an awareness of his greatness.
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Gratefulness Defeats the Enemy
The enemy of our souls wants us to believe that God doesn’t care about us. And when we choose to focus on all God has done for us, instead of being worried about our circumstances, we can worship God which infuriates the enemy. Can you imagine how God gets glorified every time we make the decision to be thankful (instead of doubting that God will come through)?
When we are grateful, we can’t hear the enemy’s taunts. When I am thanking God for what he’s given me, the channels are open to receive whatever encouragement he has for me. God is pleased by my gratefulness because it is of faith. And we know without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Gratefulness Will Open Doors to Share Christ
One thing that has always struck me is that people don’t have to have much to be good reflections of Jesus. They seem to shine because of what he’s done in their life. They don’t focus on what they can see, but they seem more interested in what is unseen. And people who are grateful will draw others to want to know why they are grateful. When a person who has gone through many trials is grateful for all God has done, this person stands out. People will want to know why. And we will be able to share about the hope that we have inside of us (1 Peter 3:15).
With everything that is going on in our world right now, declaring gratefulness truly is a great idea.
A Prayer of Gratitude
Father, our world is hurting right now. People are unemployed, not knowing how they will provide for their families. People are ill. We have so many unanswered questions, Lord. Help us to keep looking to you. Thank you for everything you’ve given us. We want to keep remembering that we are not alone, you are here with us. We pray that our hearts would be grateful no matter what we will face. Thank you for your Son and the sacrifice he made on the cross. We pray all this in Jesus’ precious and Holy name. Amen.
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Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There: Finding God's Comfort Through Loss. Anne has also written and published another memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook by clicking the tab. Or connect with her on Facebook.