“And when He had given thanks (εὐχαριστέω), He gave …” Mark 14:23
A passage not often associated with “thanksgiving” is the story of Jesus’s astonishing miracle in Luke 17. Jesus heals ten lepers and only one (“a foreigner,” by the way) bothered to return with gratitude (see Luke 17:11–19). Saying “Thank You” should never be difficult. No one more than Jesus exemplified a lifestyle of thankfulness. An important word in our Christiantradition – eucharisteó: to be thankful – is forever in our hearts as we reflect on Jesus’s “giving thanks.” Immediately, in Mark’s Gospel, we are told, “He gave.” It is a subtle reminder that thankfulness only happens as we “give thanks.” Jesus, always the genius, was on to how important it is for us to experience gratitude.
This year I am grateful for the ways in which Audrey and I, along with our five children pictured above, have learned to pray with more empathy for so many who have suffered and struggled. Who hasn’t this year? Even in our home, we have felt the effects of pandemic-induced anxiety in our children, which God has used to bring us closer to each other and Him. I am also thankful for laughter in the midst of struggles. We have laughed. We have laughed a lot this year. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy, peace, gratitude, these are disciplines, not talents we are born with! We know, no matter what, God is always in control. Even so, as one great Christian Thinkers said, “it’s always easier to obey God than to trust God” (Jerry Bridges). I am also thankful for ChristianThinkers, like you, around the globe who continue to stand with us in grace and truth.
So, was Jesus on to something related to gratitude? I think so.
Did you know, according to UC Davis Professor Robert Emmons, “gratitude blocks toxic emotions”?[i] Did you know experiencing gratitude can strengthen your immune system and even lower your blood pressure?[ii] Experiencing gratitude will make you stronger and healthier.
My friend, Dr. Gregory Jantz, who started The Center, A place for Hope, says, “What has gratitude got to do with spirituality? Everything, because gratitude is a form of prayer. We are thankful to someone. Thirteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart summed it up: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”[i] Experiencing Gratitude can even strengthen your immune system and lower your blood pressure. Experiencing gratitude will make you stronger and healthier. Gratitude confirms we did not accomplish anything on our own.
Don’t forget: gratitude can be expressed in a range of creative ways. According to the science of well-being, we need to cultivate certain habits to be happy. Perhaps one of the strongest indicators of your personal mental health, right now, is your ability to experience and cultivate a life of gratitude. In Christiancircles, we call this “counting our blessings.” Thankfulness: The Greatest of Virtues and parent of all others (said Cicero)!
Paul has been called the “Apostle of Thanksgiving,” which is rather interesting because most of his opponents doubted God was with Paul because had many problems and so much affliction (read 2 Corinthians).
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
Paul taught us to give thanks “for all things”: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
Paul taught that not being thankful was the first step in apostasy: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21).
What qualities are going to define you? Our family will be defined by gratitude.
Amen. Thank you for standing with Christian Thinkers Society in prayer!
Jeremiah J. Johnston, Ph.D.