By Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv.
Studies have consistently found that gratitude and positive emotions benefit physical health. Stress is the culprit of so many health issues, yet the simple act of feeling thankful can help combat it.
Being thankful produces several benefits. Firstly, by being grateful you’ll just be happier. In a recent study, people who journaled ten items they were thankful for each week were 25% happier than those who did not. In addition, our relationships improve, we are more resilient, we sleep better, and we are more satisfied in general. According to another study, happy people live an average of ten years longer than pessimists and have a 77% lower risk of heart disease.
There is a great story in the Bible about King David being grateful. Second Samuel 6:14 says he “danced before the Lord with all his might.” Two verses later, he’s described as “leaping and whirling before the Lord.” His display of thankfulness was so exuberant that his wife chided him for celebrating in a manner unbefitting a king. David refused to let her spoil his thanksgiving. “It was before the Lord,” he explained. “Therefore, I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight.”
When is the last time that we felt this exuberant and so filled with gratitude and thanksgiving?
After several months of enduring this COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation, masks, social distancing, and all the changes to our daily lives, it may be difficult to feel thankful. Living in a nation so divided politically is a huge stressor. Yet, if we look back over the same last several months and intentionally look for how often goodness has shown up, we can be thankful. God is indeed present and still speaking.
I am thankful to live in a nation where love is standing up against hate. Love is standing up against prejudice, greed, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and more. It may feel that we live in the midst of a battle. Yet, I am grateful that there are so many people who love and who care.
I invite us this Thanksgiving to look back at the last few months and reflect upon where we encountered love and to be grateful for that love. Say a special prayer of thanksgiving for the numerous ways that God’s love manifests itself in our lives. Also when we reflect, we can discern where that love erupted in the midst of our challenges. God is in our midst always.
Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv. – Community Activist and Senior Pastor at
United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale.