Minister’s forum: Cure for the blues? Throw a gratitude party
March 31, 2006
Driving down Highway 50 last Wednesday morning, after dropping my grandson off at school, I became aware of a heaviness in my soul, accompanied by a stream of thoughts, all of which were either negative or worrisome. These were thoughts about the unwanted responsibilities of the day, concerns for several people in the congregation, and some worries associated with my family. As I pulled into the church parking lot carrying this load of pessimism and worry, I felt like I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say to me, “You need to throw a gratitude party.” I immediately knew what he meant because I had been to quite a few of these before. It meant I needed to get before the Lord and begin to thank Him for His goodness, His faithfulness, all the good things He has done for me, from spiritual blessings to natural provisions.
I parked my truck, walked immediately into the sanctuary, opened my Bible to Psalms 145 and read verses 1 and 2: “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You.” With that scriptural inspiration as a kick start I began to thank God for the way He has met me and blessed me through the years. I thanked Him for revealing Jesus Christ to me when I was a confused and searching young man. I thanked Him for the wonderful wife He has given me a for a lifelong companion. I thanked Him for health and friends. I thanked Him for calling me into His service. I really did not get as far as I thought I would. Within five minutes I had tears of gratitude running down my face as the revelation of His goodness grew within me. Needless to say, the heaviness of my former thoughts was washed away and I emerged from my gratitude party with a spirit of optimism and joy, ready for the day in front of me.
Through the years I have learned the power of praise and thankfulness in dealing with a spirit of heaviness. It is a garment that the Lord wraps us in if we are ready to trade in the other one. Isaiah 61: 1,3 declares this to be one of the primary ministries of Jesus Christ to those who come to Him: “Because the Lord has anointed Me (Jesus) to give … the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” We live in an age where depression has reached epidemic proportions. The demands of life force us into a hurried performance mentality and lifestyle, running from one responsibility to another and never feeling like we have done enough with our jobs, our time and our children. There is not enough “relax” time and when we have some, we feel guilty for relaxing. We awake to the stress of the day and fears of the future. The weight of it all drives us to antidepressants, alcohol or some form of escape in order to cope.
I sympathize with the challenge that so many have in this area, and I am not faulting antidepressants. If there is a need and it’s under a doctor’s care, it can make a very positive difference. My purpose here is to highlight the role and antidote of praise and thankfulness toward God, and to encourage us to faithfully apply this daily spiritual prescription for combating the heaviness of life. Before professional therapy or antidepressants, the Bible prescribed a regular and consistent habit of praise and gratitude. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Psalms 103:2 .)” “Giving thanks for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20.)” “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18.)”
Let me end with a qualifier. Embracing our calling to practice gratitude should not negate the validity of other emotions and confessions. Concern, worry, fears, etc., are normal human emotions and often relate us rightly to the circumstances in our life. However, these feelings are there to help guide our choices into wisdom, not to dominate and control us. Our immediate circumstances and concerns too easily force us into a tunnel vision, as if they are the only circumstances. Taking time for a “gratitude party” can give us a panoramic vision that reveals to us that all is not negative. There is so much that is good, and things could usually be so much worse. So with this in mind, party on!
– Terry Edwards is senior pastor of Lake Tahoe Christian Fellowship.