The true story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is one to examine more closely. These Christians gave thanks to God first and then to their Indian friends after the most difficult year of their lives. Their gratitude was shown in the greatest of trials and losses. Although they may not have known it, They reaped the benefits of gratitude practice for their health. Imagine being close to starvation, losing half of your family, needing warmth and shelter, fearing strangers in a new land, and at times wondering if your journey was worth the sacrifices and losses. Yet, these Godly people practiced daily gratitude.
The Apostle Paul exhorted the Church in Thessalonica in Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in everything as he sought to encourage them after they’d experienced trials of severe persecution and loss. What about the cancer journey? Does Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all things” apply here, too? My cancer journey forced me to re-evaluate my life and draw closer to God and my spouse. It also caused me to look deeper into my lifestyle habits. What was I doing that contributed to my cancer diagnosis?
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)
The years 2020 – 2023 are a time period most people would like to delete on their computer. I never dreamed that a worldwide pandemic and raging forest fires and hurricanes would bring so much destruction and loss of life. Then to add to our misery, protests and destructive riots have turned American cities into war zones while polar opposite political parties scramble for answers. And now an Israeli-Palestinian War threatens to spread and involve many countries including ours. Does Paul’s admonition ”in everything give thanks” also apply to us today? What about another declining health journey? The Bible is clear and gives us no wiggle room—in everything give thanks.
According to the research of Dr. Robert Emmons, having an attitude of gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University Medical School, proclaims, “If thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” No wonder so many doctors are prescribing the practice of gratitude as a way to improve psychological, social, and physical health. This prescription costs us nothing!
Dr. Daniel Amen has done some interesting research on how our thoughts impact our brain and health. Using images from SPECT scans of the brain, he found that practicing gratitude actually causes real brain changes that enhance brain function and make us feel better. He concluded, “Where you bring your attention, determines how you feel and how your brain performs. Your thoughts can make you feel great or make you feel sad, forgetful, and clumsy.” Practicing gratitude actually calms the emotional brain. And when we can calm the emotional brain in the midst of a storm, we promote healing.
Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul also gave us these instructions during tough times in Phil 4:6-8? Research clearly indicates that people who practice a lifestyle of gratitude are healthier and heal better. These practices promote peace in the middle of the storms of life. They also calm the emotional brain, which prevents the release of many stress-related hormones. Yet Paul prescribed having an attitude of gratitude over 1900 years ago before these outcomes were known. The art of practicing daily gratitude does not stop when war, political unrest, natural calamities, cancer, or any disease shows up at your door.
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.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:6-8 (NIV)
The Pilgrims founded a new world where religious freedom would abound. I found a new freedom and purpose in life. Gratitude gives us a new story—a new beginning. Any trial no matter how grim does not have the final word. He has decreed eternal life for those who are truly His. This eternal perspective provides hope and healing for the weary, enabling us to bathe in gratitude, rather than grumbling. Paul’s prescription for a life of gratitude promotes healing and costs us nothing.
Many times, we forget to be grateful for the simple blessings all around us. Each of us is a gift to each other, and let us not forget the many simple blessings we experience each day. May we use our blessings to bless others. May we humbly express our gratitude as the Pilgrims did even after the most difficult year of their lives. The benefits of gratitude practice for our health are just an added and natural side effect.
What are you thankful for during this season of gratitude?
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Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Unleash Your God-Given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer was released in May 2020 after her journey with cancer and was recently awarded the First Place Golden Scrolls Award for Memoirs, and Second Place in both Selah Awards for Memoirs and Director’s Choice Award for Nonfiction at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. It recently received the Christian Authors Network’s (CAN) Gold Award for Excellence in Marketing for reaching 62.5 million people with a message of cancer prevention and survival. It was written with commentary from an oncologist and was featured on CBN’s Healthy Living Show, Atlanta Live, and CTN’s Homekeepers along with over 75 media outlets. Learn more and cancer and wellness prevention blog and book information at www.ginnybrant.com.