CLERGY CORNER: How to live a grateful life

Posted on 22 November 2017 by LeslieM

A Peanuts cartoon shows Snoopy looking over his Thanksgiving dinner in a bowl. In the first frame he remarks, “How about that?” In the second he is eating and thinking to himself, “Everyone is eating turkey today, but just because I’m a dog, I get dog food.” In the third frame he concludes, “Of course, it might have been worse…” And in the final frame he remarks, “I could have been born a turkey.” It’s an interesting commentary on our propensity to be dissatisfied with circumstances in life only to perhaps discover a reason to be grateful after all.

In this season of Thanksgiving, we should be reflecting on the many reasons why we ought to be grateful. If we are not careful, we may fall into the trap of focusing more upon our dissatisfactions than upon our blessings. Issues that result in frustrations, anxiety and worry abound in our lives, but we don’t have to be victimized by adversity. It is possible to develop a lifestyle of gratitude and thankfulness regardless of what we may face.

In Philippians 4:6, Paul advises believers to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” He essentially offers a formula for living a grateful life in three practical steps. “Be anxious for nothing” translates into “do not worry”. Eliminate, or at least diminish, anxiety, fretting and worry from your life. Anxiety has to do with mental anguish and excessive concern, which can cloud our ability to think clearly or act rationally.

Someone calculated the average person’s anxiety in the following manner: 40 percent of our anxiety is focused upon things that will never happen; 30 percent is focused on things from our past which cannot be changed; 12 percent is focused upon criticism from others, most of which is untrue; 10 percent concerns our health, which only worsens with stress; and only 8 percent of our anxiety is focused on real problems with which we must contend. A whopping 92 percent of our anxiety is entirely unnecessary! We simply need to learn how to manage the remaining 8 percent. Paul’s strategy? Just don’t worry!

Next, we are encouraged to pray about everything. Prayer is conversing with God, sharing our hopes and dreams, as well as our fears and concerns. Many therapists will attest to the benefit of talking through your problems and challenges. We all need to have people in our lives with whom we can consult when facing overwhelming circumstances. Who better to converse with than the all-knowing and all-powerful God in prayer. Psalm 55:22 offers a promise: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you.” An old hymn of the church adds, ‘take your burden to the Lord, and leave it there.’ And someone once remarked, “why worry when you can pray?”

Finally, Paul’s strategy for living a grateful life urges the practice of being thankful. Even when faced with dissatisfaction or disappointment in life, we can still find a reason to be grateful. Like Snoopy discovered, things may not always go our way but that doesn’t mean we have to be resentful. Rather, we can choose to be thankful.

In fact, there are three reasons why we can be grateful in adversity. It could have been worse than it is, there may be a life-lesson in the experience and it will work for your good. The Scriptures provide ample confirmation of this perspective. Believers live with the knowledge that God is ordering their steps and guiding them to perfection and maturity.

Enjoy this season as you spend time with family and friends. Consider the many reasons to be thankful and aim for a lifestyle of gratitude. Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything, and be thankful in all things. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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