I just saw yet another study on how being thankful can improve your health and perhaps even add years to your life. More and more we’re realizing that being thankful and content and grateful actually improves our lives emotionally, mentally and even physically. So why is it so easy to forget that and instead look on the negative side of life?
1. I think we sometimes just get in the habit of looking at the negative side of things. All around us the newspapers, TV and even friends and family seem to be stuck in a cycle of negativity. Sure, there’s plenty wrong with the world but it’s OK to take a moment once or twice a day and recognize all the good things we have.
2. Sometimes we’re fearful to see the positive things in our lives. We have the irrational thought that if we think about the good things, they might just go away.
3. Often our pride gets in the way of being thankful. None of us wants to look like a Pollyanna- “Come on everybody. Let’s look on the bright side!” So instead we go with the flow and once again focus on the negative. But where does that get us?
The story of the Ten Lepers in Luke Chapter 17 paints such a clear picture of one of the benefits of being thankful. Here are ten guys stricken with one of the worst possible illnesses of their day- leprosy. The slow erosion of their bodies may have started months or even years ago. The minute it was determined that those white and pink patches on their skin were indeed the dreaded leprosy, the victim was whisked away from their families, friends and worship community for fear they might contaminate someone else.
So even as their bodies started to whither up and decay, the physical process simply mirrored what was going on inside of their souls. A slow, decay was taking place. They were being cut off from their support systems, left alone outside of town in a refuge for the sick, lest they come in contact with another human being. So it must have taken all of their desperate courage to hike into the village and take a chance of seeing Jesus. This One who’s been known to heal blindness, paralysis and yes, even leprosy. Is it worth the effort? What if He- like everyone else- turns us away?
So the story goes that the ten men stood afar off, because of their disease, and yelled to the travelling Savior. “Jesus, have mercy on us!”
Jesus instructed them to show themselves to the priest- an act that was reserved for a healed leper. But they obeyed and as they walked in their obedience they were healed. What a celebration that must have been. Legs strengthened, arms made whole again and the telltale signs of the decaying disease, completely wiped clean from their skin.
In the midst of the celebration one of the men- a Samaritan, an outsider from the Jewish community, stopped and turned around. He came back, glorifying God and kneeling at Jesus’ feet. He wanted to show his gratitude.
His friends celebration continued in the background. Yes, all ten men were healed but this Samaritan got something else. The thing Jesus commended in the life of His friend Mary. The best thing. This hopeless leper started out afar off, but ended up at Jesus’ feet. About as close as anyone can get to another person.
You want to get closer to God? Try being thankful. Look around, we have so much to be grateful for.
Take a moment right now and write down 5 things you’re thankful for.