VERSES | NOV 2, 2022

The Power of Gratitude

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Rob West & Jim Henry

The Bible has plenty to say about the benefits of gratitude and researchers have even collected data on them. Studies show the very positive influence that gratitude has on the lives of individuals, allowing them to better handle life’s ups and downs.

We know that God’s Word has many passages to inspire a thankful heart, but one in particular that details the benefits of gratitude is found in Philippians 4:6-7:

“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.”

If you’ve wondered how the peace of God translates into physical and emotional well-being, you’re not alone. Researchers with the University of California campuses at Davis and Berkeley wanted to find out too.

They gave groups of people “gratitude journals” to document things that made them thankful and to report their experience. The researchers broke down the positive responses into three categories: physical, psychological, and social.

For physical benefits, individuals reported having stronger immune systems, possibly noting that they got sick less often. They also said they had fewer aches and pains, lower blood pressure, better sleep and an increased desire to exercise and take better care of their health, all by simply fostering an “attitude of gratitude.”

The psychological effects of gratitude included higher levels of positive emotions in general. Respondents also said they were more alert, alive and awake. They also felt more joy and pleasure, more optimism and happiness.

Many Christians keep prayer journals where they often express their gratitude to God for what He provides. It’s a way to “count your blessings” and a verse that comes to mind is Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

When we keep track of all the ways the Lord provides for us, it’s impossible to not be grateful. So it seems that keeping a prayer journal (or in the case of a secular study, a gratitude journal) is a great way to foster an attitude of thanksgiving.

The last category the researchers looked at was ”social.” How does gratitude improve our relationships with family, friends, and others? Respondents said they became more helpful, generous, compassionate, forgiving and outgoing.

For all of those reasons, the researchers suggested that everyone should keep “gratitude journals” to enhance these effects.

Once the data was collected, these researchers may have felt they had backed themselves into a corner. They had to come up with an explanation for why all these benefits flow from a spirit of gratitude. Here things really get interesting.

First, they determined that true gratitude is proof that, despite all of its problems, there is still goodness in the world.

Second, they admitted that a source of goodness must exist outside of ourselves. It’s not something we create ourselves and true gratitude shows we’re dependent on something or someone else.

They even admitted this could be a “higher power,” if one is spiritually inclined— someone who, “gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

That certainly sounds a definition of God. Little wonder that the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever.”

It’s fair to ask why the study participants, who may not know the Lord, experience the blessings of gratitude. We know that God’s financial principles work for believers and nonbelievers alike. Staying on a budget, living on less than you earn and saving for the future all lead to financial well-being.

We might assume then that there’s no reason why practicing gratitude wouldn’t be beneficial to everyone as well. The Holy Spirit might even use the experience to lead someone to Christ. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

We can play a role as well, by witnessing our gratitude to the God Who provides all things. 1 Chronicles 16:8 reads, “Give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!”

Jesus also says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

What better way to see the power of gratitude in action?

You can also listen to the related podcast on this topic.

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