“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore, my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise Him.” (Psalm 28:7)
At this time of year, our national holiday draws us to consider the practice of gratitude and thanksgiving. So, am I truly a thankful person? And can I find hope through possessing a grateful spirit and practicing my thankfulness?
One article suggests that there are seven proven benefits of gratitude. 1) Gratitude opens opportunities for relationships. 2) Gratitude improves physical health. 3) Gratitude improves psychological health. 4) Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. 5) Gratitude improves sleep. 6) Gratitude improves self-esteem. 7) Gratitude increases mental strength. (7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude/ Amy Morin/ 4.3.2015/ psychologytoday.com)
Wow! What a beautiful list of perks for being thankful. But, for this post, I only want to focus on two: improved self-esteem and increased mental strength. Self-esteem is bantered about in today’s society. But what is its value? It’s defined as simply confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. Some confuse this with pride, but in reality, self-esteem or confidence is built slowly over a lifetime of achieving certain goals or tackling certain situations. Gratitude can enhance self-esteem by forcing it to focus outward on the people who have contributed to the success of that person. Gratitude mixes humility into the confidence and balances this. For me, I can be grateful for the ways that God, His Word, and His people have bolstered my courage through their input.
But how can mental strength be improved through the practices of gratitude? Can being thankful in all things release my mental grip on the damaging events or people that have crossed my path? Can expressing thanksgiving release the wounds that have plagued my mind and create new ways of viewing my life and its experiences? Paul reminded young Timothy of this truth: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Fear, worry, bitterness, and self-pity all destroy the mind’s ability to let go of the grip of those wounds. It prevents healing. But gratitude releases the mind’s need for justice or even answers to the question “why.”
So, how can being grateful add hope to my life? In many ways. But for me, gratitude has the strength to temper my confidence with the realization that who I am is only by the grace of God. Plus, gratitude has the power to free my mind of past hurts, see the good even in the bad, and move forward to healing and hope.