I did a little research recently that blew me away. Multiple scientific studies show that gratitude improves our quality of life. Let me mention just a few of the benefits:
- Gratitude increases happiness
- It reduces depression
- Grateful people sleep better
- They have higher self-esteem
- They find it easier to build relationships
- Having a thankful heart increases mental strength
- Gratitude even improves physical health
You must remember that for the research to be valid, they had to compare people facing similar circumstances. The differentiator was how thankful their subjects were.
A state of heart
We all know people that have it all (or nearly) and yet seem dissatisfied. On the other hand, it’s humbling to meet those who are always overflowing with thankfulness irrespective of life’s difficulties and disappointments.
The Old Testament teaches us powerful principles that help us live life right. After God delivered the people of Israel from Egypt, He instructed them to instigate an annual feast. And what was the purpose?
“This annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let the festival remind you always to recite… “With a strong hand, the Lord delivered you from Egypt.” Ex 13:9
God established an annual feast for one reason alone: so that His people would never forget His goodness to them. It was so important that they remembered God’s faithfulness that He created a public holiday.
So how does that apply to you and me? How many times do we pray for something to happen, or not to happen? When God comes through, we may say thank you but soon forget of His kindness. And when we turn a corner and times are tough again, we quickly complain.
A long night
A few years ago, in the middle of winter, I travelled to Pittsburgh to assist a friend at a conference. I started to feel ill towards the end of the convention. Soon, I had a fever. I carried on the best I could but was very glad when it was time to head home.
I waited for my flight via New York to London. As I waited, fog descended. My eyes were glued to the departures board as the delays clocked up. 30 minutes became an hour. Two hours became a three hour delay. Before I knew it, I had missed my flight to London.
Something inside me said that I must not let anything but thankfulness out of my heart. When I reached New York, I arranged a new flight home for the following morning. But by the time it was sorted, all the comfy seats in the drafty waiting area were gone.
I lined up four wooden chairs, put my bag under my head and pulled my coat over myself. As I lay awake all night fighting the fever, all that left my heart was worship. I kept telling God how grateful I was for the privilege of being able to call myself a minister.
When I eventually reached London, I waited at the carousel for my luggage. You guessed it: my bags didn’t arrive. I filled out the forms then headed home, still loving on the Lord.
About two days later, my suitcase was delivered to my house. With a smile, I thanked the driver and then my heavenly Father.
I learned a life-long lesson that night. The best route through the toughest of times is gratitude. Remain thankful in the midst of the fire and you have a good chance of remaining joyful.