By Hal Lindsey
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalms 100:4-5 NASB)
Terror attacks… the violent destruction of whole Christian communities in large regions of the world… a worldwide moral free fall that portends worse things to come. We could talk all day about bad news as we watch the world system implode on itself. Yet God calls on His people to abound with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:7)
America is a nation with a deep biblical heritage. “Thanksgiving” is a case in point. Those who went before us set aside a day for all Americans to give thanks to God. But as the nation becomes more secular, it struggles to find meaning in the venerable holiday.
Every year around this time, the secular world takes note of thankfulness. We see a spate of articles about the health and social benefits of gratitude. Three years ago, Time Magazine said, “Being thankful is strongly linked with both mental and physical health — and can help to relieve stress, depression and addictions, among other conditions.”
The Time article cited a 2003 study showing that “those who were most spiritually thankful had a lower risk of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, bulimia and addictions including alcohol, nicotine and illegal drugs.”
Grateful people sleep better. This has a surprisingly positive impact on both physical and mental health. Thankfulness gives a person a better body image. If you don’t want your daughter to grow up to be anorexic, one of the best things you can do is to teach her to be thankful. In general, studies show that thankfulness increases healthy self-esteem.
Gratitude also causes people to be more empathetic and show less aggression. It helps us recover from trauma, such as posttraumatic stress. It helps us to live longer and be happier.
Thankfulness is like a fountain flowing with benefits and those benefits are available to everyone. There is always something to be thankful for. Will Rogers gave an example in a way only he could. He said, “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”
There’s no threshold for thankfulness. You don’t have to have a certain level of money, health, family, or friends in order to be thankful. Frank Clark, a U.S. Congressman in the early part of the 20th century said, “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”
Thankfulness is good for us. It makes us happier. Yet fewer and fewer people exhibit thankfulness in their lives. The focus has changed from “count your blessings” to “bemoan your problems” and “enumerate your enemies.”
2,000 years ago, the Holy Spirit showed a man that ungratefulness would be one of the hallmarks of our time. 2 Timothy 3:1-2 says, “In the last days . . . men will be . . . ungrateful.” [NASB]
Knowing the benefits of thankfulness, and knowing that it’s free, why don’t more people choose to be grateful? Why do we so easily shift from gratitude to complaint? Why does it seem easier to focus on problems, and ignore blessings? Why are so many people unable to consistently access the benefits of a life marked by consistent thankfulness?
The biggest problem is that most people don’t know personally the One to whom their primary gratitude should be expressed. It’s good to be grateful to friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers on the street. But they’re all human, and in some way, at some level, they will let you down. And when they do, your attitude of gratitude is bound to take a nosedive.
Thankfulness quickly runs its course when directed only at parents or friends or “the universe.” Real Thanksgiving surges forth when the object of our thanks is completely deserving, and we focus on that.
Only the God of the Bible — our Maker and Redeemer — is completely deserving of our thanks at all times in all ways. When we center our thanksgiving on Him, the attitude of thankfulness then spreads to family, friends, strangers, etc. Thanksgiving becomes a way of thinking, and an attitude of being. And it’s contagious. It spreads to those around us. It brings health to individuals, families, and communities.
But in order to last, it must start with God. You don’t have to go through mental gyrations working yourself up to it. If you really know Him, just think about who He is, what He has done, and choose to thank Him. Because God is good . . . all the time!