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In Praise of Gratitude

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The Harvard Health Letter, published by Harvard Medical School, had an interesting article in the November issue of 2011. In the article “In Praise of Gratitude,” Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough, who have done much research about gratitude, asked all participants in one study to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude 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.

Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, tested the impact of various assignments given to help the mood of 411 people. When their assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other assignment, with benefits lasting for a month.

Studies such as this one cannot definitively prove a cause and effect relationship. But most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being. Think about it though. Does it really require a study or studies to inform us of what we experientially already know? The obvious truth is that when we express gratitude or others express it to us, the result is we feel good.

Since feeling good is always a great thing to experience and since we are celebrating Thanksgiving this month, there is no better time like the present to express our gratitude to God for all His blessings and to others for all they mean to us. According to Scripture, we should voice our appreciation to the Lord (e.g., 1 Chronicles 16:8; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 28:7; Psalm 30:12; Psalm 35:18; Psalm 75:1; Psalm 100:4; Psalm 107:1; Psalm 118:28; Psalm 136:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 9:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Revelation 4:9) and to the people in our lives (e.g., Matthew 22:39; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Ephesians 4:25, John 13:34-35; Hebrews 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3), but additionally we should demonstrate that same appreciation with our actions. You and I will have at least three opportunities to express our appreciation with word and actions this month as people of MSBC.

First, November 11th is Veterans Day. If you know or meet any veterans of the U.S. armed forces, please let them know how much you appreciate their service to our country (I would include police, fire, and emergency personnel in these expressions of appreciation as well). Second, the annual MSBC Thanksgiving meal is on Sunday morning following the worship service on November 12th. Please plan to invite a friend and show your appreciation for your Savior and your church family by staying after the worship service for a time of food, fun, and friendship. Third, the outreach event Judgement House is on November 30-December 3rd here at MSBC. This dramatic presentation is about real-life situations and demonstrates the truth of people’s choices versus the consequences of those decisions both in this life and the next. Show your appreciation for Christ and Christian friends by attending, inviting unbelieving friends in need of a relationship with Christ, and being in prayer for the spiritual success of this event.

Well, that is all for now. Hope you have a great month of November! Hope you outwardly maintain and exercise an attitude of gratitude! Hope you enjoy as much turkey and dressing as your diet, budget, and Alka-Seltzer will allow!

Until we meet again, blessings!

Your friend and pastor,

Bruce

Author: Bruce Smilie

Pastor - Main Street Baptist Church, Grand Saline, TX bruce@churchonmainstreet.com