November 24, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 107:1 (NRSV)
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Why should we give thanks to God? Well, certainly God deserves it. But psychological research offers another answer. Gratitude actually helps the one who expresses it. People who practice offering thanks have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, better sleep, more joy and pleasure, more compassion, and less loneliness. So, this week give thanks to God because of God’s goodness to you. And give thanks because it will make your life better, too.
If you were to ask me why it’s important for you to practice thanksgiving, whether on the official U.S. holiday or at any other time, my first answer would point to the simple fact that God deserves your thanks. You should give thanks to the Lord, as Psalm 107:1 states, because “he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” Even as we ought to say “Thank you” to those who do something good for us, so we should say “Thanks” many times over to God for all of his good gifts to us. It’s a matter of good manners, you might say, or of recognizing the magnificent goodness of God.
My second answer to the “Why should I give thanks?” question would focus on the benefits for you in giving thanks to God. For example, as a pastor, I’ve seen time and again how people who are grateful live better than those who are not. They appreciate life deeply. Moreover, gratitude opens their hearts to receiving even more of God’s goodness.
As it turns out, the benefits of gratitude go way beyond what I’ve observed in my pastoral experience. Recent psychological research underscores the value of expressing thanks. For example, one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude is Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. For years, Emmons has done extensive research on gratitude and its influence in our lives. He has written several books, dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles, and many more popular pieces on this subject. In his fascinating article, “Why Gratitude is Good,” he cites research that shows that people who practice gratitude experience the following benefits: stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, better sleep, more joy and pleasure, more compassion, and less loneliness. Harvard Health, in “Giving thanks can make you happier,” reports on Emmons’s research. The article notes that, in a study done by Emmons, people who wrote down things for which they were grateful “were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”
Gratitude, as it turns out, isn’t only helpful for our personal lives. It also seems to make a difference at in the workplace. In “The Science of Gratitude,” researcher Summer Allen, Ph.D., writes, “Though there has not been a great deal of research explicitly focused on gratitude in the workplace, a handful of studies suggest that gratitude may help employees perform their jobs more effectively, feel more satisfied at work, and act more helpfully and respectfully toward their coworkers.” I know that when I thank God for my work I do feel more satisfied. I expect I also act more helpfully and respectfully toward my coworkers! At least I hope so.
Now, it would be rather selfish if you and I invested our time and energy in thanking God mainly because it’s good for us. Gratitude, by its very nature, turns our hearts outward, focusing on the goodness of others rather than on our personal benefits. However, the fact that gratitude can make such a difference in our lives, including our work, certainly adds to our motivation for giving thanks.
So, during this week of Thanksgiving, by all means give thanks to God because of his goodness to you, because God’s love for you in Jesus Christ is steadfast. But, as you are thanking God, know that you are also helping yourself to be healthier and happier. May this fact encourage you to practice intentional gratitude, not just once a year, but throughout the year. Pay attention to God’s gifts and thank him. God deserves it . . . and it will make your life better.
Have you ever experienced a change in your own well-being because you expressed gratitude? If so, what happened?
Why do you think gratitude made such a difference in the lives of those who express it?
Ditto from yesterday. Take Mark up on his invitation to consider this a week for Thanksgiving and/or to devote an hour to intentional thanks. Alternatively, be sure to do whatever helps you feel and express thanks to God.
Gracious God, you deserve our thanks because of your inestimable goodness to us. Our giving of thanks recognizes your grace and honors your goodness. Plus, it’s just plain polite.
Yet, in your goodness, you have made us so that when we express thanks we also benefit. There’s no way we can ever out-give you, Lord. Even when we thank you, we are blessed.
May my life be filled with gratitude, not just this week, but every week. To you be all the glory. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Cry for Help
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.