Gratitude is a word we toss around this time of year. On the last Thursday of November we tell each other what we’re thankful for - family, job, God’s blessing - then we push away from the table, full of food, and genuinely happy because we’ve shared. We turn on football and grab the stacks of Black Friday ads to strategize how we’re going to spend all of that thankfulness.
Recently, I was challenged in my understanding of gratitude. A friend shared a story about how staying grateful during an intensely challenging season gave God room to do some things that only God could do. Miraculous stuff, frankly. Coincidentally (providentially?), I stumbled across three separate articles written by different, but well-known personal development coaches who each argued that the only real antidote for negativity was gratefulness.
I thought I understood what it meant, but I have a fickle relationship with it. When it comes to gratitude, I have a firm grasp of the obvious. I can be thankful when the blessing is right in front of me, but sometimes I don’t always see that my experience right now may not be the whole picture. While I am (supposedly) waiting on God, I’m all anxiety and worry.
One of the writers of the New Testament wrote this advice: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4v6-7)
Aside from 21st Century self-help gurus sounding like a 1st Century missionary, I’m struck by the stark contrast between anxious and peace. The central idea, of course, is prayer; but it is prayer with thankfulness at its heart.
Can I be honest here? The fact that I’ve missed this idea doesn’t make me feel good. I know that I have exchanged peace for anxiousness. The voice in my head (and you know you have one too) gloats, “Ha! How many times have you missed out?” But here is the lesson:
Gratitude is a choice rooted in the present.
Today, I can be grateful and move forward. Today, I can accept peace that accompanies thanksgiving. Even if I fall off the wagon and back into cup-half-empty thinking, I can pick gratitude back up and choose it again.
So when you lug your full belly over to the couch this Thanksgiving Day, will you join me in choosing to carry your gratefulness through the holiday season into the new year? Make it something you choose to be each day. And let me know how it goes.
DAVID TRELOAR | THRIVE CHURCH'S LEAD PASTOR