Gratitude is an important discipleship practice. And it is just that — a practice. Just like you’ll never learn to play the guitar without regular practice, we’ll never become the kind of people God will us to be — people of gratitude — without some regular routines of thanksgiving. That’s what makes this week such an important touchpoint.
The more I practice biblical gratitude, the more God forms me into the person He wants me to become. That’s why, for the Christian, thanksgiving is appropriate in any season — because God will always use gratitude for my spiritual development. So again, we hear His command: give thanks in all circumstances.
And this is important for us to remember — especially in light of the events of the last few months. The isolation and stress of this year has taken a toll on our mental health. New research indicates that anxiety rates have TRIPLED in the United States since the coronavirus restrictions were put in place this spring. We were already the most anxious nation in the world, but COVID has put all of this over the top. Just this week, I heard one counselor describe our situation as, “a mental health pandemic.” I wonder how many of us have felt an increase in our anxiety over the last few months, either stemming from concern over the coronavirus or the election or the economic impact of these shutdowns.
But God’s Word teaches us that gratitude works as a counter to worry. Amazon says that among Kindle readers, this is the most highlighted passage in the Bible:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.Philippians 4:6
Embedded in this 2,000-year-old verse is timeless wisdom for the road we find ourselves journeying right now. God shows us that prayerful gratitude is one of the keys to overcoming anxiety.
In his letters to the church, Paul mentions thanksgiving and gratitude more than any other Christian practice. Just think about that for a minute. You’d think Paul would have more to say about worship or baptism or the Lord’s Supper or evangelism. But his teaching on those topics is usually concentrated to just a few places in his letters. But gratitude? Paul is ALWAYS talking about gratitude.
And this is important: I think Paul does this because he has learned that gratitude is a powerful weapon against anxiety and worry.