“The American holiday of Thanksgiving traces its roots all the way back to 1621, when colonists held a harvest feast with local natives. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln declared an official Thanksgiving day in late November. In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to move the holiday a few days earlier, but after widespread discontent, eventually consented to make it an official holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November.” (Michael B. Sauter)
Today, we’re supposed to be grateful. Those who see the glass half full find it easier . . . they’re grateful to have been spared the downside. They know how bad things could be and are grateful for their good fortune.
The half empty people compare their ‘what is’ to their ‘what could have been’ to their ‘what should be.’ They’re always wondering things like, “Will they do what I expect?” “Will my dream come true?” “Will I get what I hope for?”
Half empty people are usually disappointed and struggle to be grateful. And when there’s an absence of gratitude, there’s an abundance of anxiety. Why? Because anxiety comes from unmet expectations.
When we expect things from our wives, kids, extended families, circumstances, the government, our employers, the church, from anyone or anything, we set ourselves up to be anxious. Logic says there’s two ways to solve our anxiety . . . lower expectations or raise performance.
But there’s also a third option . . . a better one. Choose to be grateful. Think about what you’ve been given instead of what you haven’t . . . about what you have versus what you don’t. Reflect on the good places you’ve been instead of those you haven’t. Be grateful for your bicycle instead of being anxious over not having a car. You could be walking! Every one of us could.
Lots of people will say today’s a great day to make a list of things you’re grateful for. Let me suggest a different approach. Take a sheet of paper and make two columns. At the top of the first column, write “What I value.” At the top of the second column, write “What could have been.”
Now think about the people in your life, the experiences you’ve been blessed with, your wife, children, house, job . . . whatever comes to mind. If you really value it, put it down in the first column.
When you’re done, think about what could have been. Write down each thought in the second column. What would your life have been like without your wife? Visualize your life without a job or a home . . . without the opportunities you’ve been given. By each thing you value, think about what life would be like without it and write down that thought. Sometimes it takes thinking about what life would be like without to appreciate what we have.
This last word is for the readers who are serious Jesus-followers. (You know who you are!) Imagine what your life would be like without God. Imagine where you’d be if He hadn’t changed the direction and trajectory of your life. Imagine a future with no hope of a life after this one. (That might be the ultimate anxiety.) Because of Jesus, we can choose an attitude of gratitude over a continuous stream of anxiety, fear, pressure, worry and doubt. Is it ok to ask for other things? Absolutely. Just wrap your requests in thanksgiving before you present them to the Father. And remember . . . the only sure cure for anxiety is a grateful heart.
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