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A Key to Happiness is Thankfulness

My family’s suffered through a lot of health issues these past few years. I had my twelfth knee surgery, a total knee replacement, several months ago (and I’m not very old!). My two sons were diagnosed with a rare esophagus disease called EOE two years ago, and they’re still trialling foods to see which ones are causing their throats to swell. It’s a challenge (not to mention expensive) for my wife Elizabeth to cook meals daily without wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, corn, and pork. One of my kids is battling another health disorder that tops all of the above by far, and the list goes on.

In a way, these trials have made me more effective in my job as a campus minister. There’s a lot of pressure on college students, and it seems like the percentage of students suffering with some form of mental health disorder is rising every year. So when I share my family’s recent suffering and how I’ve found happiness in the midst of those trials, students listen.

If someone asked me to make a list of things that make me happy, I’d tell them that somewhere at the top of the list I’d put thankfulness. In fact, I’d say it’s absolutely essential.

There are so many great examples of prayers of thankfulness in the Bible. Mary’s prayer in the first chapter of Luke is beautiful. David’s many thankfulness prayers in his Psalms are classic. One of my favorites comes from the prophet Jonah, who usually seemed like he had a bad attitude except for the day he prayed from the belly of a great fish. Here are some of his words:

“The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:5-9, ESV)

The reason thankfulness is so key is because it’s a posture our hearts can have toward God. It’s a posture that says we believe God is in control, that He’s ultimately good even though there’s evil and suffering in this broken world, and that we know He loves us. Thankfulness is one way we experience God’s love.

An important habit I’ve developed over the years that has helped me stay thankful is to pray The Lord’s Prayer (found in Matthew 6:9-13) the very first thing in the morning while I’m in the shower and beginning that prayer listing things I’m thankful for. By starting my day off with a posture of thankfulness, I’m better prepared to face any trials that may come my way.

How are you doing in the area of thankfulness? In what ways do you incorporate giving thanks into your life? Do you tell others how thankful you are for them? I’ve found that giving thanks not only helps me grow in my relationship with God. It also helps me to grow closer to others. It truly is a key to me being happy in all of my relationships!

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photo credit: amslerPIX Big Hug via photopin (license)


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About Chad Young

Chad Young works in full-time college ministry, serving as Cru Global’s national director over the southeast region, leading the ministries in FL, GA, AL, and MS. He has served on the staff of Cru for fifteen years. He is the author of Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony, Superficial World (InterVarsity Press), a discipleship-training manual, and magazine articles for Worldwide Challenge and The Collegiate. He frequently speaks at retreats and conferences and regularly writes devotionals for his website, findingauthenticchristianity.com. Chad, with his wife Elizabeth, travels the country to speak at churches and train church leaders how to make Biblical disciples. Chad currently resides in Atlanta, GA, with his wife Elizabeth and their four young children, Wyatt, Clark, Evelyn, and Josilynn. His hobbies include cheering on his kids in sports, following college football, and laughing with family around the backyard fire pit.
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