The Refuge: Gerry Alston

Gerry Alston

The Refuge

When we were little and learning new words like “mommy and daddy,” we were taught how to say thank you.

Our parents would remind us, “What do you say? ...” This was part of our foundation of growth, and as we’ve gotten older we understand that it’s a common courtesy to express our gratitude for what someone has done for us. But, do we really understand the power in a simple thank you?

I saw a sign that read, “Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot.” When we have an attitude of thankfulness, our attention is on the positive instead of the negative.

There’s a story in the Bible about the children of Israel and how a whole generation failed to receive the promise of God mainly because of their grumbling and complaining. (1 Corinthians 10:10) “nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” (Romans 1:21) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Did you see that being unthankful can make us dumb and our hearts darkened! Doesn’t it seem like complaining and offense are at an all-time high these days? The enemy, the devil would love nothing more than to devour us by getting our focus and attention on what’s wrong and totally miss all the beauty and blessings in our lives. (1 Peter 5:8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (Proverbs 15:15) All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.

Do you have an afflicted mindset, where it seems like nothing is going right?

When my children were little, sometimes they’d get grouchy and everything seemed negative. The whining and complaining would begin, and it seemed their whole focus was only on what they didn’t have. In those situations, we would ask them to tell us three things they were thankful for before they could go do anything else.

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They didn’t like it but soon found themselves in a better mood. You see, our desire was to change their focus away from the negative, and to remember how really blessed they are. If they were exceptionally negative we’d ask for ten things!

When we are positive and thankful, then our outlook on life is much better; we have a “continual feast.” The things that seem overwhelming don’t look so big anymore. (Proverbs 17:22) A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.

Research has shown that focusing on the positive and being grateful can have a big impact on your physical health as well. You sleep better, the stress level is lowered, and in turn, the risk of heart failure is reduced. (1 Peter 3:10) For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.” Don’t allow complaining to come out of your mouth. It’s like a cancer to your whole being.

Sometimes you can get into the habit of complaining and you find yourself agitated for no reason. The sun could be shining and it’s beautiful outside, yet you can’t enjoy it. Maybe things are rough, and some would say you have reason to complain, but it only does you harm. Finding something to be thankful for will bring you closer to the answer.

How do we break that cycle? Remember it’s called thanks-giving, not thanks-feeling. We may not feel like being thankful, but we can always choose to be thankful, and it’s so important to our well-being!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and go around the table proclaiming what we are thankful for, let’s plan to make this a daily habit — even a moment by moment endeavor. We’ll begin to find more things to be grateful for, and see the beauty in our lives. And a bonus, our health will improve!

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Gerry Alston is a senior pastor at The Refuge church in Philomath. He can be reached at therefugephilomath@gmail.com.