Thankfulness – or Not

Good morning, Five Minute Families. This is a week of thankfulness in America. Everywhere we turn, we see fall colors, culinary treats, and the words grateful, thankful, and blessed. Our and our sons’ Bible studies, the call to worship, and the sermon itself this past Sunday were all about thankfulness. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.”

What about those of us who might be struggling to be thankful? I am not talking about the logical thankfulness of being alive or having food on the table. I am talking about struggling to be thankful in our first thoughts and ongoing thoughts. For some that is due to real, right-now events such as a spouse having just died or a child addicted to meth. For others that struggle may be due to past hurts and unhealed wounds, and for yet others, mental illness may keep their brains from making the transition to thankfulness. So how do we navigate the Thanksgiving holiday when we are struggling?

In pain, grief, trauma, or mental illness, hormones and neurochemicals are disrupted. Those disruptions can cause fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep and more. The brain is adversely affected by all of those. In those times, it can feel monumentally difficult to join in with the ‘thankfulness brigade.’

Yet, we need thankfulness in our hearts, minds, and lives. We need thankfulness spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Being thankful is known to raise “feel good” hormones and lessen stress hormones. We humans are inclined to covetousness, and we often focus on what we don’t have. Philippians 4 verse six begins “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” The great thing is that God’s word doesn’t end there, He goes on to say, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” By intentionally choosing an attitude of thankfulness, we allow God to better guard our hearts and minds.

God created us with the ability to rewire our brains. The technical term is neuroplasticity. Just as an athlete practices in order to build muscle and neural memory, we must choose to build up our thankfulness “muscles.” We can meditate on God’s Word daily. We can list what we are thankful for. We can listen to praise and worship music. We can choose to set a single goal daily and congratulate ourselves when we meet it. We can quiet our desires and focus instead on the needs of life. Rewiring the brain does take time, however; so here are five practical ideas to use right now this holiday weekend:

1. For those of us who are struggling with finding the good or joy in life, don’t steal the joy from those around you. You may not feel like joining in and singing songs or playing games, but you can be present and listen. Don’t sulk in your pain, but you don’t have to pretend either.

2. For those of us who don’t struggle with mental health issues, one of the best things we can do is to accept that we don’t know but that struggle is real within our loved ones. Recently, I have listened to and shared often the song “Relate” by For King and Country. In the chorus, they sing:

I don’t know what it’s like to be you

You don’t know what it’s like to be me

What if we’re all the same in different kinds of ways?

Can you, can you relate?

We both know what it’s like to be hurt

We both know what it’s like to feel pain

3. Someone struggling needs to be slow to speak, not because you are angry but because you might not realize how often negativity comes out of your mouth. We need to spend a bit of extra time taking our thoughts captive before speaking in a supposed-to-be joyful setting. Be positive in what we say to our loved ones and be positive in what we say to ourselves. And, yes, that matters greatly.

4. Don’t just throw Scripture at a struggling person. God’s Word does not return void, but as His hands and feet, we need to share Scripture lovingly and kindly. If you simply want the other person to behave more in the manner you would desire, then keep quiet. If, however, you see them struggling, and you can nonjudgmentally share God’s healing word, then do so.

5. All of us – those struggling with gratefulness and those who are overflowing with gratitude this year – need to take time every day (how about five minutes to start?) to focus on the positive elements of that particular day. It may be small – I got a sip of hot coffee before getting busy, or it might be life-changing – my husband is breathing on his own for the first time in three weeks, but no matter what it is, write it down and give the God of the universe thanks for the good in this life.

As our pastor shared this past week, the Dead Sea cannot sustain life because it only receives water but never gives any away. Remember to focus on giving joy when you are able, and praying for each other to be able to find a way into thankfulness this week and every day in Christ. Be blessed!

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Thankfulness – or Not

Good morning, Five Minute Families. This is a week of thankfulness in America. Everywhere we turn, we see fall colors, culinary treats, and the words grateful, thankful, and blessed. Our and our sons’ Bible studies, the call to worship, and the sermon itself this past Sunday were all about thankfulness. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.”

What about those of us who might be struggling to be thankful? I am not talking about the logical thankfulness of being alive or having food on the table. I am talking about struggling to be thankful in our first thoughts and ongoing thoughts. For some that is due to real, right-now events such as a spouse having just died or a child addicted to meth. For others that struggle may be due to past hurts and unhealed wounds, and for yet others, mental illness may keep their brains from making the transition to thankfulness. So how do we navigate the Thanksgiving holiday when we are struggling?

In pain, grief, trauma, or mental illness, hormones and neurochemicals are disrupted. Those disruptions can cause fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep and more. The brain is adversely affected by all of those. In those times, it can feel monumentally difficult to join in with the ‘thankfulness brigade.’

Yet, we need thankfulness in our hearts, minds, and lives. We need thankfulness spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Being thankful is known to raise “feel good” hormones and lessen stress hormones. We humans are inclined to covetousness, and we often focus on what we don’t have. Philippians 4 verse six begins “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” The great thing is that God’s word doesn’t end there, He goes on to say, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” By intentionally choosing an attitude of thankfulness, we allow God to better guard our hearts and minds.

God created us with the ability to rewire our brains. The technical term is neuroplasticity. Just as an athlete practices in order to build muscle and neural memory, we must choose to build up our thankfulness “muscles.” We can meditate on God’s Word daily. We can list what we are thankful for. We can listen to praise and worship music. We can choose to set a single goal daily and congratulate ourselves when we meet it. We can quiet our desires and focus instead on the needs of life. Rewiring the brain does take time, however; so here are five practical ideas to use right now this holiday weekend:

1. For those of us who are struggling with finding the good or joy in life, don’t steal the joy from those around you. You may not feel like joining in and singing songs or playing games, but you can be present and listen. Don’t sulk in your pain, but you don’t have to pretend either.

2. For those of us who don’t struggle with mental health issues, one of the best things we can do is to accept that we don’t know but that struggle is real within our loved ones. Recently, I have listened to and shared often the song “Relate” by For King and Country. In the chorus, they sing:

I don’t know what it’s like to be you

You don’t know what it’s like to be me

What if we’re all the same in different kinds of ways?

Can you, can you relate?

We both know what it’s like to be hurt

We both know what it’s like to feel pain

3. Someone struggling needs to be slow to speak, not because you are angry but because you might not realize how often negativity comes out of your mouth. We need to spend a bit of extra time taking our thoughts captive before speaking in a supposed-to-be joyful setting. Be positive in what we say to our loved ones and be positive in what we say to ourselves. And, yes, that matters greatly.

4. Don’t just throw Scripture at a struggling person. God’s Word does not return void, but as His hands and feet, we need to share Scripture lovingly and kindly. If you simply want the other person to behave more in the manner you would desire, then keep quiet. If, however, you see them struggling, and you can nonjudgmentally share God’s healing word, then do so.

5. All of us – those struggling with gratefulness and those who are overflowing with gratitude this year – need to take time every day (how about five minutes to start?) to focus on the positive elements of that particular day. It may be small – I got a sip of hot coffee before getting busy, or it might be life-changing – my husband is breathing on his own for the first time in three weeks, but no matter what it is, write it down and give the God of the universe thanks for the good in this life.

As our pastor shared this past week, the Dead Sea cannot sustain life because it only receives water but never gives any away. Remember to focus on giving joy when you are able, and praying for each other to be able to find a way into thankfulness this week and every day in Christ. Be blessed!

Leave a reply

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