A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about a woman in his church who was continually worried and stressed. Her husband was in the military so they moved to a new place every year or two. She was convinced that each new place was going to be worse than the last. She was certain that the schools in the next place would be bad for her kids. She was sure that the people would be cold and unfriendly. She expected that nothing would be right. Of course, for her, they weren't.
After a few years like this, her marriage was on the rocks. Her children avoided her and she had no friends. Her health began to fade too. Her doctor took a battery of tests but couldn't find a thing wrong with her. He said it might be psychological, possibly psychosomatic.
Finally, the woman went to my friend who is a pastor for help. He patiently listened to her sad tale of misery for about 10 minutes. Then he took out his Bible. He had her read Philippians 4:6-7, which says:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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."
Then, the Pastor gave the woman his Bible and asked her to read the verses again. But she read them in a monotone without any feeling. The words of these wonderful Bible passage seemed to mean nothing to her.
So my pastor-friend read the words to the woman this time. This time, he audibly emphasized the words "with thanksgiving." Then he gave her this advice: "I want you to remember these words, 'with thanksgiving'. If you could learn to be thankful, your life will change!" He told her: "Thanksgiving is one of the keys to finding peace in your heart and life. An attitude of thankfulness will give you peace."
Then, he gave her this assignment: "For the next 30 days, I want you to count your blessings. When a problem comes, look for the good in it. When you are afraid, uncertain, angry, or cynical, I want you to look for the good things in your life and thank God for them. If something is not right, look for the blessing in it. Thank God continually for whatever comes your way. As you have to move to another place again, thank God for the opportunity to meet new people, to start again, and expect to see God work in the new place. Be thankful for everything!"
As the woman left the pastor's office, she reluctantly agreed to "try it." Several weeks went by and the pastor didn't hear from her. Then, one Sunday, he was shaking hands after a service and she went through his greeting line. He almost didn't recognize her because the change was so dramatic. Her face, her posture, her countenance, and even her style of dress were different. What was most changed was the woman's attitude. There was a new zest for life. She smiled and even laughed a few times. She had a joy that was contagious. God had changed her heart. Thanksgiving was the elixir that healed her soul.
Folks, consider the benefits of being thankful. Several studies show that thanksgiving is the way to good mental health. It will keep you positive, contented, and improve your physical health. You will be more realistic about your problems because thankfulness puts the bad in prospective and exalts the good.
More than the psychological benefits, are the spiritual benefits of gratitude. Having a relationship with God and Someone to thank will heighten the benefits of thanksgiving even more. In fact, thanksgiving improves your spiritual maturity. One of my favorite verses, Colossians 2:6-7 says:
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
I pray that your Thanksgiving holiday will be blessed of the Lord. I pray that God will be more real to you than ever before as you thank and praise Him.