Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thank Therapy

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

My friend and mentor Jim Burns of Homeword has taught me many lasting life lessons, not the least of which is what he calls “Thank Therapy.”  I have found Thank Therapy to be nothing short of transformative in my life, as it has become a daily discipline for me.  Here are some thoughts from Jim through me.

When it comes to this subject, I meet two types of people in the world. There are those who are grumblers and complainers and those who are thankful and grateful. It is interesting to note that almost universally the person who is a complainer is much less happy than the thankful person.

If I drew a straight line on a piece of paper and on one end wrote the words "grumbler/complainer" and on the other end wrote "thankful/grateful," which end of the continuum would you be closer to? The odds are overwhelming that you can measure your degree of happiness in life by where you place your mark.

In studying thankfulness I've learned a very helpful principle: Thankfulness is a key which unlocks your depressive emotions. You cannot be both thankful and depressed at the same time. They are opposite emotions. You can be sad, hurt, or angered and still be thankful; but you can't be depressed and still be thankful.

We can't make the decision about whether some of life's negative "stuff' is thrown our way; but we can decide to be thankful, even in the midst of a not-so-perfect world. It was the apostle Paul who said that we should "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (1 Thessalonians 5:18). But for many of us, the attitude of thankfulness does not come easy. We've learned from our past to complain our way through most circumstances.

My initial reaction to the verse was perhaps similar to yours. “Thankfulness is fine when things are going well, but how can it be God's will for me to be thankful for my parents' Alzheimer’s, war, relationship problems, my friends who are dying, and everything else that's wrong in the world? Is this verse telling me I should rejoice and be thankful for family problems or hunger or other tragedies in life?”

No. If you look closely you'll see that Paul is not telling you to be thankful for these things; rather we are to be thankful in our circumstances. There is a major difference between being thankful for every situation in life and being thankful in those situations. He challenges us to find reasons to be thankful even in the worst of struggles.

Thankfulness is an attribute that transcends our circumstances. No matter what our circumstances, I believe there is reason to be thankful in them. Our circumstances may never change, but our attitude toward them can change -- and that will make all the difference.

Christians have a special reason to adopt the attitude of gratitude, because we know that whatever comes, our times are in God's hands. It was Jesus who said, in effect, "So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow, too," (see Matt. 6:34).

Thank Therapy is simply focusing on the many things in my life for which I can be thankful. Why not take a few minutes, grab a notebook and pen, and make your own list of things for which you can be thankful.

Yes, our circumstances might be difficult. But because we have a Lord who cares for every aspect of our life, we can be assured we’re not alone in our struggles.

And, can I say at the close of this week’s Gmail, “I am thankful for you and for PCC!”

I love being your pastor!