Matthew Henry, a well-known eighteenth-century Puritan preacher, was threatened by robbers in the city of London. They took his possessions and endangered his life. It’s safe to say that was not one of Mr. Henry’s best days!
And yet, this is what he wrote:
Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because though they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.
Matthew Henry knew how to practice gratitude. How about you? Consider these four proven benefits of gratitude and its practice:
Gratitude can strengthen your spiritual life. The apostle Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. Roman jails weren’t exactly known for their luxurious accommodations. Hear him, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Paul wasn’t defeated in spirit, rather he was abundantly thankful!
Gratitude can improve your mental and emotional health. In Philippians 4:8 Paul encourages, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Paul knows that when we give thanks, it is a way of living in the presence of God, and it impacts what we focus on.
Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has proven in his studies that gratitude reduces depression. I highly recommend his book Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Mariner Books, 2008). He notes how the practice of gratitude and living in the presence of God diminishes a number of toxic emotions, from anger to jealousy to resentment. David knew times of great loss and grief, and yet he affirmed, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:3).
- Gratitude can expand your social awareness and service for others. The Journal of Psychological Science (Vol. 17, Number 4, 2006) testified that those who practiced more gratitude were also more likely to help others.
The authors Monica Y. Bartlett and David DeSteno reported that “pro-social” behaviors are in turn linked to greater happiness. Their research concluded that empathy increases when people are thankful. Further, their work asserts that gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others.
- Finally, gratitude can improve your physical health. The research on gratitude reports that practitioners experience better sleep and less stress. It reduces headaches, sore muscles, stomach pain, and boosts your autoimmune system. Research also shows that those who practice gratitude exercise more regularly, report less illness, and generally feel healthier.
So, as you approach each day, keep your focus on the grace of God and all that is good. Yes, practice gratitude and thank God for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual blessings.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).