Among the first pioneers to discover the impact emotions play in a person’s health was Austrian-Canadian scientist Dr. Hans Selye (1907-1982). He wrote a total of 30 books in his quest to better understand stress and human emotion. Toward the end of his life, Dr. Selye summarized his research, declaring that anger, bitterness and revenge are the emotions most harmful to our health and well-being. He also concluded that a heart of gratitude is the single most nourishing response that leads to good health. Gratitude and thanksgiving are like therapy for the soul.
As we approach Thanksgiving, much emphasis is placed on thanking God for the positive blessings of life. And we should. But how should we respond to negative circumstances when storms blow into our lives?
Dr. Selye’s findings conclude if you are ungrateful, you will eventually grow bitter. This is the default mode of the human heart. But the apostle, James, speaks to this with something quite counterintuitive, even radical. “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2). James knew trials would be used by God to develop us spiritually and that we should respond joyfully. Similarly, the apostle Paul implores us to give thanks. He writes in Philippians 4:6,7:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And in I Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
When you are in the midst of a storm and have no idea how it’s going to turn out or how God is going to use it for good in your life, giving God thanks places confidence in Him and the ultimate outcome. This response of gratitude is an act of faith in God and His character. Paul tells us in Philippians that this is essential in experiencing God’s peace.
Consider approaching Him with this perspective and this prayer:
“Lord, I don’t know what you are doing in my life or why you have allowed this, but I thank you for how you are going to use this purposefully in my life.”
“I pray that what I am experiencing will lead to spiritual growth, inner transformation and a deeper relationship with You. And I thank you that You will bring this to pass.”
Gratitude is a posture of the heart that trusts God with your life and circumstances. When you thank God, He will move in your life by giving you strength and peace. He might also choose to move in the circumstances of your storm, but regardless of the outcome, you are to give thanks in all things. This is what it means to walk by faith: trusting God with your circumstances and the ultimate outcome.