The young girl tugged at her mother’s dress as they stood among the gigantic crowd of people. Influenced by the tension and anxiety of the adults around her, she asked, “mama, what are we going to do? Mama, are we going to die?”, she asked again as she tugged a little harder.
Days before, mother left the only home her children ever knew. Life had been difficult but at least they had food and shelter. They had been walking day and night for days. Now here they were, a great army behind them and the vast ocean in front of them. Her daughter’s question pierced her soul. Were they going to die, she thought. Did she lead her children to their deaths? Before she could respond to her daughter, the waters miraculously rolled away to either side, revealing dry ground. Hurriedly they walk over to the other side.
On the other side one of the women in the exodus breaks out in a song of praise and thanksgiving to God. A sure demonstration of an attitude of gratitude.
Every year on the fourth Thursday in November America celebrates as a national holiday, Thanksgiving Day.
According to the history books the Pilgrims left their homes in Plymouth England, bound for the new world. Their first winter in the New World was harsh, forcing them to stay aboard their ship. As a result, many of them died from “exposure, scurvy and an outbreak of contagious disease.” When the spring came those who survived were taught by the Native Indians how to cultivate corn as well as other survival skills.
After their first successful corn harvest in November 1621, a celebratory feast, lasting 3 days was organized. This is believed to be the origin of American Thanksgiving Day.
Overcoming difficult circumstances usually birth shouts of joy, thanksgiving and celebration.
Gratitude, comes from the Latin ‘gratia’, which means gratefulness or thankfulness.
Popular in today’s literature and on the web is the term ‘gratitude journaling’. It is a way of keeping track of all the good things in your life. You spend time regularly writing down all the things for which you are grateful.
Research has shown that there are several benefits to having an attitude of gratitude. No wonder, ‘gratitude journaling’ has gained so much popularity.
Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury explains that gratitude can help strengthen and sustain our interpersonal relationships and help us deal with and recover from adversities.
Keeping a gratitude journal, causes less stress, improves the quality of sleep, builds emotional awareness, reduces pain and releases toxic emotion, she says. “Gratitude acts as a catalyst for neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine – the ones that manage our emotions, anxiety, and immediate stress responses.”
I encourage you to read Madhuleena’s in depth article on the neuroscience of gratitude.
Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart
As demonstrated in my opening story, the practice of gratitude predates our time. Also, neuroscience research suggests that we have been hardwired for gratitude. It is also an integral part of Christian philosophy. Hence, the many biblical references to giving thanks.
In Psalm 107, the psalmist says, “give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and His wonderful deeds.” So overwhelmed was the psalmist by all that God had done for him that he declared in Psalm 103:2, “praise the Lord oh my soul and forget not all His benefits!” This is before he goes on to make a list of the things God had done.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles16:34. Psalm 95 encourages us to come to God with thanksgiving, praise and song, because He is a great God and a great king above all gods. In my mind’s eye I imagine a huge celebration, a party even. Not one of vulgarity and debauchery but one which honors God as King.
One of my favorite accounts in the Bible is that of Jehoshaphat when he had to face off with the Moabites and Ammonites in 2 Chronicles 20.
He prayed to God, “we have no power to face this vast army…we do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” God took care of it; they did not even have to fight. The story ended with them entering the temple with harps and lyres and trumpets. Clearly they had a thanksgiving party going on!
Remember I said before that overcoming difficult circumstances usually birth shouts of joy, thanksgiving and celebration.
My final scripture reference and one I use a lot, is 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you.”
It is usually easy to give thanks when things are going well, but it can be challenging to be thankful and project a positive attitude when things are not going well. Think about the thanksgiving party you get to have when you get to the other side, and start being grateful even while in the difficult circumstance.
I am convinced that we have been hardwired for gratitude. An attitude of gratitude can bring emotional healing and so much more. Check out this testimony in what the author refers to as Thank Therapy.
This year has been a tumultuous one, maybe you faced some difficulties as a result of all that has been happening globally. Maybe you lost a loved one or a job or even an opportunity. Let me assure you God will take care of you. 2020 tested us and stretched us but we showed resilience and we came through. It provided opportunities for learning and for growing, it forced us to explore new ways of doing things.
What did you learn in 2020? Amidst all that happened or did not happen, what are you thankful for? Why don’t you make a gratitude list right now!
If gratitude journaling is not something you already do, why don’t begin doing so in the coming new year. Now that I have a clearer understanding of its benefits, and understand what all the hype is about, I know I definitely plan to.
“It is not happiness that brings us gratitude. It is gratitude that brings us happiness.” ~David Steindl-Rast
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I would love to here from you. Tell me what you are grateful for in the comments; and don’t forget to share this post with a friend?
Until the next post, stay safe and be blessed!
P.S. The opening story was adapted from Exodus Chapters 13-15. A little imagination added.