Carol and I were visiting friends and having fun, and I broke out into laughter. Jerry asked, "It doesn't take much to make you happy, does it?"
I said, "I normally remain happy, so I laugh at the drop of a hat. Sometimes the dropped hat makes me laugh."
During dad's last week on earth in February of 2010, someone asked him why he was in good spirits. In his faltering voice, dad responded, "I'm thankful that I will soon see Jesus." When a woman who was in a car accident was asked why she wasn't distressed, she said, "I'm thankful that only my arm was broken. It could have been my back." My wife was hit by a line-drive golf ball. Although it hurt, she said, "I'm thankful that didn't hit my head. I'm only bruised, but I'm okay."
But there are terrible things happening. Last week a friend drowned in a flash flood. War is raging in Ukraine. People around the world are being persecuted for their faith. In the United States, people have lost businesses, employment and membership in social organizations because of their faith. Part of the country is facing drought, while the other side faces flooding. Why should we be thankful for all that?
Did you know that the Bible never says we should be thankful for problems? It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
God created our brains in such a way that when we express gratitude and appreciation, our brains release specific hormones. These chemicals make us feel good from the inside out because they are associated with feelings of hope, peace and contentment. These hormones reduce physical pain, relax us and enable us to experience God's presence. And having a spirit of gratitude aligns us with God.
One of my favorite Scripture verses is Nehemiah 8:10 which ends with "the joy of the Lord is my strength." We do not need to wait until we feel gratitude to express it. We can be alert to reasons for gratefulness and then intentionally communicate our thankfulness and adoration to God.
Thankfulness. Being thankful. Having a grateful spirit. This brings in another concept: A thankful person is generally more relaxed and is able to understand more about life.
Two years ago as we were traveling to Washington D.C., we encountered a traffic jam that was about five miles long. Many folks were getting bent out of shape about it, but others remained calm. Losing our temper or our peace of mind wouldn't clear the road. The driver of the semi that was stopped next to us rolled down her window and we began talking with her about her business and the dog on her lap. We had a good interaction.
As we inched along, Carol was studying the map and found a little road about a mile away where we could get off the freeway. It took us about forty-five minutes to drive that mile, but we ate snacks, talked with "neighbors" and enjoyed the time together.
That side road took us twenty-five miles out of the way, but we didn't mind. It also probably saved us three hours of inching along. We saw some of the countryside and small towns that we would never have seen otherwise and we enjoyed the adventure. But that was because the joy of the Lord resides in our hearts and minds. We didn't have to become thankful; we were already thankful people and we express our joy and thankfulness to the Lord in all circumstances.
Now, don't think I'm bragging. This is a testimony of what the Lord has done in our lives. God wants all -- and I mean ALL -- of us to be able to tell others about our joyful relationship with the Lord our God and with others. Too many of us spend time talking about our cars, trucks, jobs, hunting and the rest, and that isn't so bad. But if you don't have a definitive statement about what the Lord has done in your life, your life is incomplete.
Being thankful does something else. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength." Overall, thankful people are joyful, and they are usually healthier.
Instead, allow the Joy of the Lord to flood your soul and truly give thanks to Almighty God for His blessings. And celebrate Thanksgiving throughout the year.
-- Gene Linzey is a teacher, author, and pastor. Feel free to send comments and questions to [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.