The benefits of gratefulness

This next Thursday, Americans all over the world will celebrate Thanksgiving day with feasting, football, parades and family. Hopefully, sometime during the day a prayer will be offered thanking God for the abundant blessings He has provided just like the Pilgrims did long ago.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 after a long winter of disease and starvation as Pilgrims faced the challenges of living in an unsettled land far from home. The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by introducing them to farming techniques that would produce an abundant harvest. Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation wrote: "By this time harvest has come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty, and ye face of things was changed, to ye rejoicing of ye hearts of many, for which they blessed God..." The Pilgrims had seen great hardship and were grateful that God brought them through this with the help of the native peoples. They celebrated for three days with games and plenty of food.

While many people do not face the hardships of starvation and disease in this country, (As an added note, many do face terrible hardship. Be sure to remember them.) we still have much for which to be grateful. Sometimes, however, in the abundance of it all gratitude becomes secondary because the abundance is accepted as "our due."

Gratefulness is defined in Webster's as being appreciative of benefits received; affording pleasure or contentment. Having an attitude of gratefulness is beneficial both physically and spiritually. According to WebMD, "grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, or regular physical examinations." An attitude of gratefulness can help people manage stress, a leading cause of disease. Gratefulness also boosts the immune system and benefits mental health.

An attitude of gratefulness also stimulates spiritual growth. Looking for the good in life despite circumstances and thanking God for that good pleases him, because all good comes from him. In his book "Velvet Elvis," Pastor Rob Bell said that “God takes great pleasure in us living as we were made to live. He even commands it in the Psalms: ‘Take delight in the Lord’” (35). An attitude of gratefulness and a heart full of joy symbolizes a heart at peace (there is that contentment from Webster's). This peace comes from God; nothing else in the world could provide the peace for which we all long. A heart full of gratitude stimulates our growth by increasing our love for God. Because of his enduring presence, we find that we are blessed no matter what.

So this Thanksgiving, amidst the cooking, eating and visiting with family, remember to thank God for all he has done. Be sure to also thank people for the good that they too have done throughout the year and enjoy the holiday season in the abundance of blessing.