“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1, NIV)
If you were to ask why it’s important for us to practice thanksgiving, the first answer would point to the simple fact that God deserves our thanks. We should give thanks to the Lord because “He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1) Even as we ought to say “Thank you” to those who do something good for us, so we should say “Thanks” many times over to God for all of His good gifts to us. It’s a matter of good manners, you might say, or of recognizing the magnificent goodness of God.
The second answer to “Why should I give thanks?” focuses on the benefits of giving thanks to God. As a pastor, I’ve seen time and again how people who are grateful live better than those who are not. They appreciate life deeply. Moreover, gratitude opens their hearts to receiving even more of God’s goodness.
Recent psychological research confirms my observation of the value of expressing thanks. Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at the U. C., Davis, is one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude. For years, Emmons has done extensive research on gratitude and its influence in our lives. In his article, “Why Gratitude is Good,” he cites research that shows that people who practice gratitude experience the following benefits: stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, better sleep, more joy and pleasure, more compassion, and less loneliness. Harvard Health reports on Emmons’s research in the article, in “Giving thanks can make you happier.” The article notes that, in an Emmons study, people who wrote down things for which they were grateful “were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”
Gratitude isn’t only helpful for our personal lives. It also seems to make a difference at in the workplace. In “The Science of Gratitude,” researcher Summer Allen, Ph.D., writes, “Though there has not been a great deal of research explicitly focused on gratitude in the workplace, a handful of studies suggest that gratitude may help employees perform their jobs more effectively, feel more satisfied at work, and act more helpfully and respectfully toward their coworkers.” I know that when I thank God for my work I do feel more satisfied. I expect I also act more helpfully and respectfully toward my coworkers! At least I hope so.
Now, it would be rather selfish if we invested our time and energy in thanking God mainly because it’s good for us. Gratitude, by its very nature, turns our hearts outward, focusing on the goodness of others rather than on our personal benefits. However, the fact that gratitude can make such a difference in our lives, including our work, certainly adds to our motivation for giving thanks.
So, this week, let us give thanks to God because of His goodness to us, because God’s love for us in Jesus Christ is steadfast. But, as we are thanking God, know that we are also helping ourselves to be healthier and happier. May this fact encourage you to practice intentional gratitude, not just once a year, but throughout the year. Pay attention to God’s gifts and thank him. God deserves it … and it will make your life better.
Why do you think gratitude made such a difference in the lives of those who express it? Have you experienced that difference? If so, what happened?
Make the decision to devote an hour to intentional thanks. Be sure to do whatever helps you feel and express thanks to God.
May your life be filled with gratitude, not just this week, but every week because of our Gracious God’s immeasurable goodness to you.