Thankfulness as the Cure

Written by Devon Bowman

I believe that our world has a thankfulness problem. Let me explain what I mean. We live in a world, especially here in the United States, that has it all. We can drive to a restaurant that has any type of food we can imagine. Our grocery stores are stocked with more food than our ancestors would have seen in years. We can order products from Amazon with one touch of our finger and have them show up to our door days later. We are able to communicate around the world with video calls. We can travel anywhere in the world via airplane. The world that we currently live in is a marvel. Yet, with all these conveniences and blessings, people are more depressed and anxious than ever before. In a time where we can “connect” whenever we want we feel the most lonely. What is there to do?

The solution to this is very complicated. I do not pretend that what I have to say in this blog is the entire cure, but I do think that it is a significant part. 

When we look at the origin story of our Thanksgiving holiday in the United States we can glimpse the need for thankfulness. The story goes that the pilgrims who came to America and founded Plymouth colony were struggling. Life as a colonist was a difficult one. The settlers had to learn how to live in their new home. Food was scarce and there was much unknown. With the help of members of the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, the pilgrims learned how to farm and harvest which led to their survival. In 1621 they celebrated and feasted together because of the successful harvest. There is much in the story that is lost to time but the overall point remains. The heart of thankfulness is in understanding the good of what you have. For the pilgrims it was food. 

When we understand that we have a need, like the settlers did with food, we are thankful when it is met. What then comes from that thankfulness is joy. Think of moments in your life that you have been in dire need of something. Think of how you felt when that need was met. I imagine that for most of us the most natural responses were thankfulness and joy. When we understand what we are missing, we are then more likely to be thankful. 

The problem I believe we have encountered in our culture is that we have so much at the touch of our fingers. We now have a jaded perspective. It seems that we would be the happiest people to ever live. What I think we have instead done is traded our beautiful life of thanksgiving in the Lord for an imitation. 

A good example of this is when you eat a lot of sugar. Especially when you are eating processed candies or something like a doughnut. If you eat a lot of them then your tongue will taste sweet differently. The orange that you eat does not taste sweet because it is not like a Skittle. The melon is not as sweet as it once tasted because you are accustomed to honey buns. It is not that the fruits changed but our measure of sweetness has shifted. When I was young I liked to drink “coffee.” I say coffee loosely because it was a little bit of coffee, a lot of milk, and way too much sugar. When I would drink just the coffee it would be incredibly sweet. However, there were times that I would eat a dessert with it. Pretty soon I could no longer taster the sugar in the coffee. The content of the coffee had not changed, but the doughnut I was eating was overriding the taste of sugar in the coffee. This is where we are in our lives. 

The blessing of our family still has the same “flavor” but our palate is more attuned to Facebook than the faces before us. The Bible is still the nurturing Word of God but our taste is for YouTube. Our job is the same that we were passionate about and thankful about its provision but our love is in our entertainment. What is the cure? It is thankfulness.

When we are thankful for what is before us our palate begins to change. When we are thankful to God that He has given us the family that we have to grow and to care for, our love for them grows. When we are thankful for the job that the Lord has provided for us to meet the needs that we have in our lives, we have a desire to do our best and to enjoy our work. When we thank God for our church, we come to church with joy in our hearts to praise God with one another. 

Thankfulness begins to change what we love. Thankfulness sets our minds on the good that God has given us, not the goods that we do not have. It makes the focus of our lives not on what we are to consume that we do not have, but on enjoying the blessings that God has already placed in our hands. Being thankful moves our mind from ourselves to others. This is the life that God created for us. 

Some of the individuals I have met that have the most materially are the least joyful. On the contrary, some of the people that I have met all around the world who have the least materially live lives that are overflowing with joy. What is the difference between these people? The answer: thankfulness.
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