SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Happiness through gratitude

In a study of over a thousand high school students, those who demonstrated high levels of gratitude had higher GPAs and less depression than the less grateful teens.
By contrast, the teens who equated buying and owning things with success and happiness reported having lower GPAs, more depression, and a more negative outlook.
There are all kinds of “happiness theories” out there, but Jesus made it simple for us. If we want to be happy, learn to give thanks.
Our happiness and unhappiness will be in direct proportion to our ability to give thanks.
There are always reasons to be thankful, even during hard times.
Matthew Henry, the Puritan preacher, made this statement after a thief stole his money: “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”
Learn to give thanks for the sparkle of the snow, the artistry of ice cycles, and the sound of an acoustic guitar.
Give thanks for a child’s laugh, swing sets, sprinklers, the smell of chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven.
Cultivate thanksgiving! Be intentional about it!
Psychologists asked undergraduates to complete a survey that included a happiness scale and measures of thankfulness. Over six weeks, the participants wrote down, once a week, five things they were grateful for.
This practice had a dramatic effect on their happiness score. The study concluded, “Students who regularly expressed gratitude showed increases in well-being over the course of the study.” Why not try this? Write down or verbally express to someone things that you are thankful for.
Cultivating gratitude is difficult if you don’t have the right world view. If you do not believe in a sovereign God who loves you and cares for you, the most you can do is thank your “lucky stars.”
But if you follow Jesus Christ, you have so much to be thankful for! Forgiveness of sins! Eternal life! Peace with God!
What might be robbing you of happiness? My hunch is ingratitude.
Our culture trains us to feel entitled. I deserve to have everything –now. When I get things, I don’t feel grateful. After all, I deserved it. I’m entitled to it. When I don’t get things, I get angry or depressed. After all, I deserved those things! Do you see the trap this is?
Don’t try to “make yourself happy.” Focus on “giving thanks.” Count your blessings. Thank God more often in your prayers. Tell people “thank you” more often. Happiness just might then sneak up on you. – [Quotes taken from Randy Alcorn’s book “Happiness.”]
The Rev. Greg Henneman is pastor of Clarkston Community Church

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