Thanksgiving: A Prescription for Joy : The Compass

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Thanksgiving: A Prescription for Joy

by Clinicians at Ganey Counseling on 11/23/15

Thanksgiving: A Prescription for Joy

As a child, thanksgiving was a day full of tradition. Stealing small tastes while my mother cooked, watching the giant balloons float through New York City, traditional foods, and after-meal football all distinctly marked thanksgiving as unique from the rest of the year. However, as I reflect, one tradition stands out. For as far back as I can remember, prior to eating dinner, the entire family would each take turns sharing what it was they were thankful for this particular year. Family, health, & monetary success were among the common gifts named. From there, grace was said and our feast would commence, marking the end of my moment of gratitude, not to be visited again for another year.

But what if that practice, giving thanks and counting our blessings, was more than a nice phrase or a tradition that takes place once a year? What if gratitude became a habit? How might our overall wellbeing be impacted if we simply began to practice saying “thanks” on not only the holidays, but on the mundane and hard days, too? When I consider adopting the practice of gratitude, the easy and happy days stand out as times when I can see God’s grace in abundance, making my ability and willingness to tell Him “thank you” and to see His work in my life a simple task! Thankfulness comes naturally in those moments when things are going my way and all seems right in the world.

But what about the hard days? What about the days when the world seems dark, the storms of life are strong, and it feels as though God has abandoned you? How and for what do we give thanks then? Ann Voskamp, an author whose writings focus on the topic of gratitude explains it this way:

            Gratitude follows grace — as thunder follows lightening. And the storm is grace because whatever drives us into God, is a grace from God.”

You see, it’s all grace. The good, the hard, the painful, the joy-filled, the confusing-all grace. Every bit of it is God working for our good and His glory. And if it’s all grace, then every bit of it is a gift. And if it’s all a gift, then we must respond with gratitude. But for what? What does this thankful living produce in my difficult and sometimes dark life? 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reads: … “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

See, giving thanks is how we can pray continually. And this is how you get to joy. Ann Voskamp says,  “Thankfulness is God’s prescription for joy.” The counting of the gifts, the intentional act of seeing grace in all things-they change our perspective. They rewire our thinking to enable us to see the hope of redemption and the works of grace in each situation, allowing us to experience joy and peace, even in the unhappiest of moments. This practice won’t change our circumstances. Those we will likely have to endure. But the practice can change our perspective and will often lead to joy, even amidst deep struggle.  This thanksgiving, pause to say “thanks,” maybe even for the difficult things. Then, allow that moment to mark the beginning of a new habit that can help change the way you look at the rest of the moments of your life.

Submitted by: Courtney Balban, Counseling Intern

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