‘Anxiety is grasping for a hold of what we do not have in the future. Gratitude is being thankful for what we do have in the present.’
Why does the bible recommend thanksgiving as an antidote to worry? How does it help? This study explores the bible’s promises which link a lifestyle of thanksgiving with a sense of Peace.
Life Group Study : Gratitude as the antidote to worry
(Study drawn from a Bridgetown Church podcast, 24.3/20)
We have so much to be thankful for. It’s true that this changes through our lives. Sometimes, for some even right now, it may be difficult to see beyond today’s trials. But even when limited by the current lockdown I believe ‘an attitude of gratitude’ is a vital aid for rising above the worries that threaten to pull us down.
There is so much anxiety in the world at present – what Paul might call a spirit of fear (Rom 8:15). How do we combat a spirit of fear with the peace that Christ offers? We have recently heard the phrase: gratitude is the antidote to anxiety and fear. But how exactly does that work?
Towards the end of the Simplify series we reflected on establishing a rule of life – i.e. a daily rhythm of living that helps us to function in a chaotic and busy world. The concept is often attributed to monastic orders but actually personal rules of life can be traced back in the Old Testament.
Establishing a rule of life: READ Daniel 6: 1 – 16
The build-up to ‘Daniel in the Lions’ den’ is far from a cute kids’ story but a tale of machination and scheming to try to bring down a gifted and godly man.
- What are Daniel’s enemies actually objecting to?
- How does Daniel respond?
- What do we learn about Daniel’s rule of life?
- How might this support him as an exile within a pagan government?
- “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed ‘giving thanks to God.” What does this detail tell us about Daniel’s thrice daily prayer routine?
- How might this practice of regular Thanksgiving help Daniel?
What we read is that ‘He gave thanks to his God.’ Daniel’s impulse in his spirit, even in exile, was to continually give thanks to his God.
Lessons from Paul (Colossians 3: 15 – 17, Philippians 4: 4 – 7)
Read Col 3: 15-17. Notice how Paul links peace and gratitude.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- How many times does Paul evoke Thanksgiving as a coping mechanism?
- What comes first: peace or gratitude?
Now read Phil 4:4 – 7 : Paul links peace and gratitude with anxiety…
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Rejoice… be thankful… Do not be anxious. Is this a sequence or cycle or both?
- ‘In every situation…’ must include our present situations in lockdown
- Reflect on the past 24 hours. When was anxiety prevalent?
- What could be practical strategies to help confront worry and anxiety?
Reflection: the relationship between Anxiety and Gratitude
John Mark Comer summarises what he sees as the connection between anxiety and gratitude:
- Anxiety is grasping for control of what we do not have in the future.
- Gratitude is giving thanks for what we do have in the present.
We are not in control of what happens next week or even tomorrow.
How long will this last? Days? Weeks? Months? What will the economic fall out be? Moderate? Severe? We don’t know.
But we do know we are here today and we are okay and we are safe under the Kingship of Jesus. Even if our body is not safe from Covid-19 our lives are ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3).
The best way to let go of the illusion of control over what happens tomorrow is to practice gratitude and thanksgiving in the here and now.
Concluding meditation exercise
- Feel what St Patrick called the stability of earth beneath you. God holding your body to the earth through gravity as the earth spins on its axis.
- Sense God holding you in His love… in His joy… in His peace…
- Become aware that God is all around you, in you and He is your rock.
- Now take a moment to offer God those things – you can say you are truly thankful for; simple or profound, poetic or plain…
- God we love You. Thank-you that we are here. Thank-you we are in Your community. Even if we are alone in our home we are never alone, we are always with You… Always the object of Your love. We receive Your life.
- Conclude: Read Colossians 3: 15 – 17 again, reflect and pray.