By Ella Corey
We say “thank you” inadvertently and often. Whether it’s to a stranger holding the door open or a waiter delivering a meal, the average person uses the phrase “thank you” about 5,000 times each year. Usually it’s just to be polite. We don’t put a ton of thought into the phrase; it’s just a natural reaction.
But what if we did? What if we genuinely meant every “thank you” we said? Studies have shown that the more grateful you are, the happier you are. In fact, it has been proven that gratitude can cause us to have a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, more optimism, compassionate and generous actions and less feelings of loneliness.
Though this seems simple, it’s not. We’ve all found ourselves in places where there seems to be nothing to be thankful for, and everything is going wrong. The German inventor Frederick Keonig once said, “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” University of California- Riverside psychology professor, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, concluded that about 40% of our happiness is in our control, with only 10% being our life circumstance (the other 50% being genetic). Even if our situation seems awful, our thoughts and attitudes have the power to change our lives.
As Christians, we have all the more reason to be optimistic. In the book of Philippians, we find Paul sitting in a jail cell imprisoned because of his faith. He’s confused, frustrated, and has every right to be upset with God. But, his response isn’t anger or hate. He reacts with complete gratitude: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ,” (Philippians 1:18-21).
Texas pastor and best selling author Matt Chandler coins this new attitude “grace-fueled optimism.” Christ has given us the gift of grace and mercy, and for that we are to be optimistic and gracious.
Because we have been given the gift of redemption through Christ, we can choose to be happy. Intentionally choosing to be happy and gracious will completely flip situations we once saw so negatively. Fully understanding the grace of Christ allows us to fully understand freedom and joy, and we have every right to be grateful.