Thanksgiving is Sanity
- November 22, 2017
- Esther Followwill-Johnson
Thanksgiving is a feel-good holiday. (Just try sweet potato pie and tell me I’m wrong!) We all love sitting with our friends and family, recounting what we’re thankful for. Giving thanks is a rewarding practice. But it is something further than that… I have become convinced that giving thanks helps us stay sane.
“Life is hard,” is perhaps one of the most brutal, unsatisfying cliches there is. Even for someone as socially privileged as I, there is evidence all around me of relatively great suffering. This year one of my dearest friends went through an extreme time of illness, regret and a loneliness so potent she was often tempted to despair. When I asked her how she got through it, she said “Every night I disciplined myself to write down what I was thankful for in that day.” This simple practice help her keep her nerve.
This week I spoke with my sweet grandfather Pops. He is about to turn 89, suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, and just spent the last year watching his daughter slowly succumb to cancer. In the weeks following her death, I asked how he was managing. He told me: “Two words, Essie: THANK YOU. I just thank God all day, every day. He has been so very good to us.”
You don’t say those kind of things in honesty without having your heart and MIND utterly transformed by praise.
Thanksgiving had to become second nature to me when I was in high school. I struggled with severe anxiety which would rob me of sleep. I’d shake involuntarily, have no appetite, and feel a debilitating fear and dread about the future. Sometimes I’d even cry at the sight of sunset, I was so afraid of the oncoming night. To cope, my wise mother taught me to memorize scripture and THANK God until I could thank Him no more.
I recited Philippians 4:4-7 to myself over and over and over again. “Rejoice in the Lord, always. Again I say rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be made known before all men- the Lord is near! Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God which surpasses understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Praise God, He used thanksgiving to redeem me completely. When anxieties arise in life, thankfulness has become my victory.
Giving thanks is by no means easy. Even the Bible calls ist a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Probably because life isn’t always sunflowers and butterflies, praising Him for many of us can FEEL like a huge struggle. But God commands it (1 Thes. 5:18) since thanksgiving is His will for us, so we can know it must be for our good. Consider the fruit of thanksgiving:
You want peace of mind? Rejoice. You want to survive trauma? Give thanks. Praise Him. Worship Him. You want to recover from anger, discontent, hurt, fear- giving thanks is the way we REFORM our mind. We remember who we are, and who God IS. Somehow, mysteriously, that actually brings peace and freedom psychologically to us. It sets everything back in it’s proper perspective and place. We as the worshippers, He as the worthy one. No matter what.
At our table this year, we’ll feast with one of my dearest friends who just a few weeks ago lost her mother. My own family has suffered loss this year, and we each have our own battles to face. But in praising God something GENIUS happens: we experience peace of mind, actual joy and real gratitude. And God, because he is so immeasurably kind, PROMISES to come to our rescue and save us.
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23)
No matter how you may feel about life this Thursday, remember that the simple discipline of thanking God actually reaps enormous blessing in your heart and mind. Thanksgiving is a gift that gives BACK to the giver.