The Power of Thankfulness

The Power of Thankfulness

Counselors, therapists, pastors and Oprah tell us that gratitude is good for us physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Yet thankfulness does not always flow easily. Perhaps we simply are not familiar with the language, having been raised in an environment where expressing thanks was uncommon. Our words of gratitude sound forced and awkward to us.

Perhaps we are wired to see what needs fixing, rather than what is already worthy of appreciating. We “improvers” make an important contribution to the world around us, but if we aren’t careful we risk missing out on the joy a thankful spirit can bring.

And perhaps we simply can’t find much in our lives for which to be thankful.

No Thanks

This was the case with Mary and Martha. Near the tomb of their brother, Lazarus, we see these sisters pouring out their grief and disappointment to Jesus. Jesus had been performing miracles of all kinds, including restoring sight to a blind man. Why hadn’t He healed Lazarus? Why had He let down this family who loved Him so deeply?

We read in John 11 that their sorrow touched Jesus deeply. He wept too. Then He approached the grave and asked some onlookers to roll aside the stone that sealed the tomb. Imagine the anticipation of the crowd that had gathered! Imagine the hope welling up inside them as they waited for something spectacular to happen.

An Unexpected Path to Power

What Jesus did next was far from spectacular from a human perspective. “Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank you for hearing me’” (John 11:41, NLT).

First, He looked up. And then He gave thanks.

Lazarus was still in the grave when Jesus gave thanks. The sisters were still mourning. The onlookers were still questioning whether this itinerant teacher could really live up to His reputation as a miracle worker. Yet Jesus gave thanks.

First, the upward look of belief. Next, the words of thanksgiving even when all seemed dark. And then, the miracle. “Lazarus, come out,” shouted Jesus. And Lazarus did just that.

Miracle in Waiting

Often, the same circumstances that are making it nearly impossible for us to express thankfulness are the circumstances through which God intends to work His next miracle. And we can unleash God’s miracle-making power by looking up to Him in belief that He hears us, and then by proclaiming our thanksgiving. If nothing else, we can begin—as Jesus did—by thanking Him for hearing us.

From that humble beginning, we can grow our capacity for thanksgiving. Here’s one way to help that growth happens. You will need a journal if you use one. Or you can use a bowl or jar (simple mason jars work great) and some slips of paper. Now ask yourself, What month is it? If it is April, the fourth month, then let’s come up with “4 Reasons to Give Thanks in Month 4.” Let’s write those in our journals or on four slips of paper that we place in a bowl or jar. Then let’s do this for every day in April, until it’s time to move on to May, and so forth.

Have fun with this. Above all, let’s not get perfectionistic. We can dig into our journals or jars for inspiration on days when we simply can’t come up enough new “thanksgivings.” We can miss a day. On some days, we might skip the written thank-you list and express our gratitude to God verbally, while driving to work, for instance. The goal is to experience the surprising power of looking up and giving thanks. That’s where miracles begin.

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