The Power of Thanksgiving

Jon Stern

37 years thankful

Molly and I have known for a long time that there is power in thanksgiving.   During our 37 years of marriage and 35 years in ministry, we have made it a practice to thank God, even in difficult times.   Sure, there are plenty of days when things looked pretty bleak.   At times, it is easier for one to “feel” like nothing is turning out right, or that people are against us or have even forgotten us; than to remember that God is on our side.  With senses dulled at times, one finds it hard to even cry. You ask yourself,  “Can I see anything at all to be thankful for?”   It is precisely for this reason that the discipline of giving thanks is a secret weapon. My dad put it this way… “There is always something to be thankful for.”

I remember when, some years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts.   She challenged us to write down one thousand things that we are thankful for – to hunt them down, if they are not immediately apparent to your senses.   For her, being a mother of many children and stuck at home all the time, she had gotten into a negative, boring rut.   God led her in this exercise which saved her life.  She made herself find joy in the little, mundane things in life – like the effervescent  colors shining in dishwater bubbles, or a bird singing outside the window.
When you begin thanking God for everything, you go on a journey of seeing things you didn’t see before!!  Recently, while reading a book called SOZO by Teresa Liebscher  and  Dawna DeSilva, I was reminded of this secret.   In Luke 17:11-19, we read the story of 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus along the way.   Now one of them, when he saw that he was “healed” (Iaomai – to cure, heal, to make whole, free from sins), he ran back to Jesus and fell at His feet and gave thanks with a loud voice.   Jesus, told him to get up and go about his way, that his faith made him “well” (sozo – to make well, to keep safe, to deliver from the penalty of judgement, to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of deliverance.)   This man’s thankfulness took him to a much deeper level of “healing” than he had even received earlier with the other nine.   This lesson made me wonder what I may have missed from the Lord by not being thankful at times? God reaches out to those who have a thankful heart.  If it appears that some have “more” than you, maybe they do because they are thankful.
In these days of sabbatical, Molly and I are exercising this gift, this secret, this amazing and simple truth – Be thankful! One of our joys this summer has been observing the doves in our neighborhood.  Many times, I would be out in the back yard in the cool of the evening and would hear the soft coo of the dove. I would then look up and, for sure, there he was perched on the electric wire above.  We are finding joy in each other, in quiet times full of reading, in searching out the Word for deeper meanings, in a phone conversation with a loved one, in praying for our children and extended families, and so much more.  Every day, we say “Thank you, God, for being with us and making us to be Your very own”.   We thank God for changing us; for making us whole, and for filling us so full that we’ll have an overflow to give to others.
“Don’t you worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything, Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done.” The lyrics of “The Peace of God” on the album, “Hidden in My Heart – A Lullaby journey through Scripture.”   The promise of a thankful heart is that the peace of God, which is beyond our ability to understand, will guard our hearts in Christ Jesus.
Take some time and thank God for the thousands of small gifts around you today.  Be careful! If you do it more than a few days in a row, you could come down with a serious case of joy and contentment, which can be very contagious.      Jon and Molly

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