While the historical accuracy of Thanksgiving is contested and the season's commercialization is debated, we certainly know that Jesus’ followers are called to live lives of gratitude.
We have all heard lessons on thanksgiving, many of which call us to examine our lives to see just how much we are truly blessed. Don’t you have the hymn Count Your Blessings stuck in your head now? If you didn’t before reading that last sentence, you will now; Name them one by one.
Expressing our gratitude to God is paramount for our faith formation. It recognizes that we are created by a good God who seeks to bless us with all we need and much more.
But honestly, the most significant expression of thanksgiving is when our lives reflect the generosity of God by the way we bless others. Abundant research has found that gratitude is a natural medicine for our souls.
For one, the brain associates gratitude with the life-enhancing states of joy, tranquility, consciousness, enthusiasm, and empathy, adversely compared to ingratitude’s state of anxiety, heartbreak, loneliness, regret, and envy.
Researchers have found that the brain reconstructs pathways through gratitude and releases the chemicals dopamine and serotonin, which lead to such feelings of joy, consciousness, enthusiasm, and more. In addition, studies have linked gratitude to increased satisfaction, motivation, and energy, with better sleep and health, along with reduced stress and sadness.
It’s like God knows what God is talking about when God states in the Scriptures, "You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11).
Gratitude transforms our life, understanding, way of seeing the world, and God’s work in and through us.
So as we enter into the week so aptly named for an attribute of Jesus, may we consider how we might live lives of thanksgiving by generously sharing our presence, attention, hearts, ears, minds, wallets, compassion, and time with those who need a blessing today to remind them of God’s generous love for them. For they will know we are Jesus’ disciples by our love.