A friend of mine has an elderly neighbor who is dying. He remains very alert for periods of the day and then sleeps. She loves her shorts morning visits with him because he is so infectiously joyful. The center of his joy is his gratitude. He focuses on his long life, the care of his family and friends and a lifetime of noticing God’s presence and love. She goes to see him early in the morning because there’s a parade of people who come to visit each day. He shares with all of them with this same gratitude and joy. She tells me how he is teaching her about dying well.
This good death is coming to her neighbor after the repetition of gratitude he has practiced throughout his life. Recent studies in psychology point out the benefits of gratitude. The field of positive psychology is overflowing with studies that affirm the practice of being thankful as a reliable way to feel better.
Simply expressing our thanks can become a habit that benefits others and ourselves.
For Christians this should be ‘old news.’ The Apostle Paul, following in the footsteps of the psalmists, urges his friends in the church at Thessaloniki to thank God no matter what their circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). You could argue that all of his advice to new believers circles back to giving thanks to God. He offers it as an alternative to anxiety (Philippians 4:6) and as a replacement for unhealthy behavior and gossip (Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3). He tells his mentee, Timothy to thank God for the people in his life, many of whom are making Timothy’s work as a young pastor very difficult (1 Timothy 2). This list could go on, but the point is made. We will be happier, healthier, more effective and more loving if we practice giving thanks. As with so many things, psychology affirms what the wisdom of the scripture offers. Gratitude serves us well all the days of our lives, even to the end. So thanks for reading!