Gratitude: Robitussin for the Soul

God's Word says to give thanks in all things, right? (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Most of us have read or hear that at least a few dozen times before, so it comes as no earthshaking surprise. But have you ever wondered how God could really expect you to be thankful when the bills are all past due, the kids are all past getting your last nerve, your dog just drowned in the toilet and the goldfish got hit by a bus (and you still have not figured out how it got out of the bowl in the first place, let alone all the way over to Main Street)? You're thinking, "Life's not only running over me, it's backed up a few times to try to finish the job … so why should I be giving thanks?" Well, let's take a quick look at it, shall we?

But first, let's establish one thing right out of the gate. If Jesus is Lord of your life, then His words should be in charge, agreed? Which means that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is not exactly a suggestion – it's a command. He said it, and if for no other reason than pure reverence, we should start responding, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" But that's not the end of it; God's not that selfish or shallow. In fact, He does not have a selfish or shallow bone in his body. Everything He's ever said, everything He's ever done, has been for our ultimate benefit. So, when God described exactly what sin was in the Law He gave to Moses and told Israel "Do not do these things !," it was not because He did not want anyone to have any fun. It was because He did not want His people to die (remember Romans 6:23, which says "the wages of sin is death"). In the same light, there are underlining reasons – and very compelling ones at that – why God tells us to be thankful.

For starters, giving thanks to the Lord forces you to change your perspective. Without question, it's very difficult (if not impossible) to look at those tire tracks running across your thorax and feel particularly grateful. And that's the very point! You see, He did not tell us to give thanks for all things, He said we should give thanks in all things – in all circumstances . Choosing to give thanks makes you stop looking at the negative circumances around you and start recalling the good things God's already done for you in the past. It causes you to quit looking at darkness and begin to focus your attention on the light, His Light (Psalm 89:15; John 8:12, 11: 9-10). And, the entrance of God's light also brings with it His life, because the two can not be separated (John 1: 4); where one is, there's the other also. Jesus, the Word of the Living God, is the Life and the Light that illuminated everyone and everything (John 1: 9, 8:12, 11:25). Those spiritual forces of life and Light impart a spark of expectant hope, and that causes you to begin to lift your eyes toward the Lord your Salvation (Psalm 121: 1-2) instead of wallowing around in self-pity.

Now, before you even go there, let me say that we can all find something to be thankful for. Are you reading this? Then you're alive and you have access to the internet. That's two quick things right there. Are your kids underfoot? Even if you feel like grabbing them around the thr … well, never mind about that for now … they're still blessings from the Lord, and we should thank Him for them (Psalm 127: 3-5). (Note: Even if you have to do the thanking through clenched teeth, that's okay; just quote the Scripture, and do it by faith.) The list of things – both big and small – that we can and should be thankful for in our lives can grow quite lengthy with very little real effort on our part, if we'd just pause for a moment and take stock honestly.

The medical science community has verified the effect that the mind can have on the body and its response to diseases and other adverse circumstances. Fear and long-term stress are, without question, two of the most dangerous enemies to health we face in this world, and they've been linked to all kinds of detrimental bodily reactions and activities (and that's just one of the reasons you find the words "Fear not!" through the Holy Scriptures). On the other side of the coin, laugh, being grateful and appreciative, being forgiving, and 'not sweating the small stuff' have all been shown to have measurable positive effects on both mental and physical health. It's nice to see that the medical field has 'discovered' what God already knew and told us to do, is not it?

Bottom line? God's not talking just so He can watch us grovel and thank Him because He's so great. He is great, but that is not why we're told to maintain an attitude of gratitude. When we thank Him for past deliverances and blessings we already have, it causes us to keep our faith in gear towards Him for present and future victories. If He caused us to exceed before, He'll do it this time, too. And, as a side benefit, with a joyful, hopeful and thankful attitude, everyone will find you a lot more pleasant and fun to be around – God included!

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