Jonathan's Perspective  

Nov 22

Thankful Living Is Joyful Living

The power of thanksgiving to transform our lives is nothing short of amazing.  You might say that we were made to be thankful.  Thankfulness or gratitude comes from acknowledging a benefit that comes from an outside source that is undeserved.  It is the sense that someone has done something nice or helpful because they love you.  I don’t mean just romantic love, but a love that cares for another person’s wellbeing and is willing to act for their good.  Dan McAdams, psychologist at NW University, writes that ‘a sense of thankfulness can turn someone's life from bitter to positive, that makes gratitude an important aspect of psychology".

 

Thankful people find joy in who they are.  Paul writes, ‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ (I Thess 5:16-17)  God wants us to be thankful to him so that we can experience joy in life!  In the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness: Dimensions and Perspectives of Gratitude Drs. Emmons and McCullough discovered that people who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others either to God or to creation in general, tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole.  In an experiment with college students, those who kept a "gratitude journal," a weekly record of things they should feel grateful for, achieved better physical health, were more optimistic, exercised more regularly, & described themselves as happier than the control group.  A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.  And, stunningly, people who intentionally sit down and visit with someone to express thankfulness have elevated mood for a full month!  When we stop comparing ourselves to others and simply give thanks to God for who we are, we are freed to use our gifts and fulfill our calling in life.  There lies the way of contentment in life. 

Thankful people find joy in what they have.  Jeffrey Kluger in Time magazine 2003."Think that Porsche and boat and beach house you have been dreaming of would actually make you happy? "Think again.”  Economist Richard Easterlin of the USC examined data from 1500 people surveyed repeatedly over a 28-year period. He found that increases in wealth and material possessions improve happiness only briefly. "The reason is a pair of forces known as hedonic adaptation and social comparison. Translation: When you get something new, the thrill quickly wears off, and even if it didn't, there's always someone out there who has something better."  Drs. Emmons and McCullough found that, according to the data, once people reach a threshold of about $10,000 a year per person, money has little to do with contentment.  Grateful people tend to be less materialistic than the population as a whole and to suffer less anxiety about status or the accumulation of possessions. Partly because of this, they are more likely to describe themselves as happy or satisfied in life.  Kluger went on to point out there are things that pay higher returns in happiness. But it turns out that they aren't really things at all, but intangibles such as family, friends, and home. And that squares with what God's Word has to say.  Paul puts it this way, ‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance, whether well-fed of hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.’ Phil 4:12

 

Finally, thankful people find joy in relationships.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Albert Schweitzer:  "To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude."  No one has to do anything for you – not your boss, your co-worker, your subordinate, your spouse, your child, no one.  People can be obstinate, hateful, difficult and undermining.  When they do something that moves the ball forward or encourages you, it is because they chose to.  Our family practices thankfulness regularly.  Last night I asked my little girl to put up the dishes from the dishwasher when she was done with her program, so I could clean the kitchen.  Fifteen minutes later I heard her clanking dishes as she put them up.  As she headed toward her room I said, ‘Thank you for putting up the dishes, Abigail.  That was a big help.’  She responded with, ‘You’re welcome.’  It is those little, daily appreciations that give people a sense of contributing, a sense of value, a sense of belonging to a place called home.

 

Try living thankfully at work and at home.  Sit down with someone who has meant a lot to you and tell them how much you appreciate the specific things they have done and modeled in their lives.  Keep a weekly gratitude journal.  Give thanks for what you have rather than grumble about what you don’t have.  Don’t let any good work, no matter how small, go un-thanked.  And I guarantee you will discover springs of joy welling up in your heart and in your relationships. 

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading this blog.

 

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