Gratitude and peace have been pretty illusive in 2020. In fact, this year has given us plenty of reasons to be anxious – worldwide pandemic, racial strife, community unrest, AND a toilet paper shortage. Plus, on a good day we live in a culture that breeds anxiety. Rampant self-centeredness, materialism, and entitlement all contribute, ramping up our worry and discontent. Hanging on to peace is like trying to catch rain with a colander.
God knew we would struggle with anxiety and worry. It is the default setting for our sinful nature. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Not even when our lives are filled with trials and struggles. The God of peace not only offers us peace, He tells us how to experience it.
First and foremost we must enter into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As long as our sin separates us from God, we can never have true peace. But, praise God, Jesus has broken down the “dividing wall of hostility” through His death on the cross, making eternal peace with God possible (Ephesians 2:13-16).
Yet even Christians still struggle to experience peace in our daily lives. We allow the worries of this world to rob us of the peace that is ours. In Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi, he addresses this problem with practical advice for turning away from anxiety and embracing God’s peace. (See “4 Steps to Embrace God’s Peace” for a breakdown of Philippians 4:4-13.)
Benefits of Gratitude
In addition to prayer, a disciplined thought life, and reliance on God’s strength, Paul highlights gratitude:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Recently, in preparation for a teaching event, I did a little research on gratitude and its effects. There have been lots of secular studies done on the impact of purposeful gratitude. Every study I saw cited positive effects on mental health, emotional well-being, and physical health.
Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of gratitude cited by these studies:
- Mental – reduces depression, stress and anxiety, and helps overcome trauma
- Emotional – breaks hold of toxic emotions, improves relationships, reduces materialism and self-centeredness
- Physical benefits of gratitude – promotes better sleep, decreased pain, increases energy, and activates the area of the brain that controls appetite, sleep, and metabolism
Although none of these studies mentioned God or how thankfulness affects our spiritual well-being, they still confirm what God’s Word teaches:
God created humans to flourish under an attitude of gratitude.
In addition to the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of gratitude, purposeful thanksgiving also has profound spiritual effects:
- Takes our focus off our struggles
- Fosters awareness of God’s provision and activity around us
- Build reliance on God’s future provision
- Ushers in God’s incomprehensible peace
A Few Practical Tips to Foster Gratitude
Paul also wrote that our lives should “overflow with thanksgiving” for all God has done (Colossians 2:7). This phrase implies we should have a constant attitude of gratitude that expresses itself in thanksgiving as we go about our day. While this is easier said than done, there are some things we can do to begin to form a habit of gratitude:
- Don’t give up – Studies show it takes a minimum of 4 weeks of purposefully and persistently practicing gratitude before it produces real benefits. This awareness can keep us moving forward!
- Gratitude is self-producing – Studies show that the more we express, the more we will feel. So, give gratitude a fair chance. Eventually the attitude will multiply!
- Journal it – These studies encouraged participants to keep a gratitude journal. Writing our thanksgivings not only requires us to be intentional and purposeful, but it also creates a record we can review on the days when we are struggling to find something to thank God for.
Let’s try a little gratitude right now! In the comments below, voice a thanksgiving to God!