A couple of weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article that proves why Thankful Tuesday is important. Not only does it have a “How Grateful are You?” test, it testifies to research we don’t have to hear to believe: Grateful people are happier people. Remember how your mom told you your face would stick in the sad position forever if you didn’t fix it into a smile?
We all know that’s true. We’ve all encountered the grouchy elderly person and thought, surely they haven’t always been this way. In my saccharine college days, when I sang a song about everything and lived in a musical of naiveté, I wrote a little ditty about negative people. It may or may not have been titled “Negative Head” and it may or may not have ended with: “Big minus sign on TOP of your head!” (I was that cool. I was.)
Want to know why gratefulness is good for you?
“Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections” (Melinda Beck, “Thank You. No, Thank You”).
Since my son is sick again for the third time in three weeks (and since I feel my asthmatic wheeze rising up to attack me), I will refrain from believing that gratefulness has given me greater resistance to viral infections (or maybe I just haven’t been grateful enough? That’s definitely a possibility.) But I love when spiritual practice actually results in tangible, physical benefits.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine,” says Proverbs 17:13.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
“I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.” (Psalm 69:29-31)
I tend to think that there’s a reason our thankfulness will please God more than whatever sacrifices we can offer on an altar. God loves us and he wants us to live lives of hope, joy, peace, fulfillment, satisfaction. It’s easy for me to grumpily list my sacrifices, those oxes and bulls I’ve slaughtered and dragged to a stone table, hoping that they’ll prove my value to God. I can fixate my mind on them at the end of the day: What I gave up for the sake of my boy or my in-utero baby, what I suffered in the presence of the meanies (the parking cop who yelled at me, the lady in the hospital lab who wouldn’t give me my shot even though I’d been waiting for 40 minutes). But if I’m really listening to the Lord, my heart will know that what God wants isn’t my laundry list of what I’ve endured. God wants me to remember what I’ve been given.
So, no, it’s not Thankful Tuesday. But you should read this article anyway. And before I add something else to my Christmas list (or my sacrifice list), maybe I should make a list of what I’m grateful for. (I’ll go do that now.)