I said last week that I would be writing more posts in a series on anger, but I had to take a break and write about thanksgiving since it will be Thanksgiving this Thursday! I couldn’t pass this up because God has been teaching me about gratitude for a while now. I wish I were done learning this lesson, but I’m still in process. I think you’ll agree, too, that this has a lot to do with my series after all.
I love books. God knows this, so oftentimes, He teaches me through what I read. One book given to me by a dear friend a few years back was a life-changer for me. The title will not be unknown to most of you since it’s become so popular (and for good reason): One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (I’ve written about this book and the lessons I’ve learned from it before here and here). It’s a book I need to read again and again. It’s all about Voskamp’s journey to thankfulness. She is a poetic homeschooling mother of six who was challenged by a friend to find 1000 blessings and write them in a journal. In the book she chronicles her story of how she was changed by that list. What is interesting is that through her story, it seems that many people are being changed by that list and the lists that they are beginning to keep along with her. It’s not surprising that this would be good for us to do–the Bible reminds us to “forget none of [God’s] benefits” (Psalm 103:2) and “Remember the wonders [God] has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced” (Psalm 105:5).
As I started my own list, I remembered how I used to make mini blessings lists when I was in high school. A teenager’s emotions swing high and low, and when I was feeling down, I would fill the front and sometimes back of a college-ruled piece of paper with everything big and little for which I was thankful–friends, pets, family, mechanical pencils, erasers, flowers, etc. I didn’t always want to write the list. I would force myself, and by the end, I always felt completely happy. Making my new long list has taken a lot longer, but it’s cementing the lesson in a lot better–the lesson that no matter what, there are always blessings all around us.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” When we focus on these blessings more than we focus on the inconveniences, when we choose to obey Paul’s injunction in I Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances,” something interesting goes on in our hearts. One, in answer to my last post, we become less angry. In fact, if we are truly thankful, we will not be sinfully angry.
On Sunday, my mom’s pastor taught about another heart change that comes with being thankful. If we are truly thankful, we will not be greedy or envious. As he said, we can’t thank God with all our hearts for something He gave us and at the same time tell Him we really wanted something else. Greed and envy will fade away with thankfulness.
Third, God taught me a long time ago that thankfulness wipes away anxiety. Two of my favorite verses are Philippians 4:6 and 7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How do I have total peace and freedom from anxiety? Trust God with my problems by asking Him for help, and thank Him. If I am thankful as I ask Him–God, thank You that You care about every one of my issues. Thank You that You take care of my every need–I will lose my anxiety. Try it! I promise it works.
If we are thankful, we will be less angry, greedy, envious, and anxious. On top of all that, my mom’s pastor told us studies have been done about thankful people. They have found that thankful people are happier, healthier, and more forgiving and have more supportive communities, less depression, and a higher sense of worth. They are more likely to attain their personal goals and participate in spiritual activities. If we follow what God’s will is for us, to be thankful, we will be so much better off!
I know all of this, and God is helping me grow in this area, but I can tell you I don’t always live it. To tell you the truth, I’m not living it this very moment. I’m focusing on the negatives of the day–my kids hurting each other numerous times on accident and on purpose, my lack of sleep, all the work I need to finish, and how a cold is attempting to take over my body. Instead, I need to focus on the fact that a sweet friend that I miss called me today and that I was able to text with several other friends. I can remember the nice time I had during quiet time today, sitting with my legs up in the warm sun, alternately praying for friends and admiring the colorful leaves my kids kept bringing me. I can be glad that my husband’s conferences are almost over and that he’ll be able to spend some down time with us. I can remember that as my mom’s pastor said, I live on Planet Amazing, full of a variety of flowers with a variety of colors and fragrances that really didn’t even need to exist–God could have given us a purely utilitarian world if He wished. In fact, just as I said before, now that I’ve chosen to focus on the good, I’m not upset anymore, and I feel so much better!
Let’s choose thankfulness not just on Thanksgiving this year, but year-round! Pray Psalm 103:1-5 with me–I can’t say how I needed these verses today!