When members of a wagon train headed west on the Oregon Trail, they were confident and optimistic. Dreams of owning land, breaking new ground, abundant harvests, building new homes with their own hands and raising their families far from troubled, crowded cities filled their minds and fueled their strength. Anticipation of good things to come brightened their days and made the long journey worthwhile.
Then reality arrived.
Water became hard to find. Grass needed for their animals to survive became scarce. Wagons broke down, causing long delays in stifling heat. And with these difficulties came a change in the mood of the entire company: They became edgy, angry and discouraged. Tempers flared as conflicts divided former friends and the trip seemed longer every day.
In order to keep from self-destructing, this gloomy group decided to call a meeting to air their complaints and try to resolve their conflicts. When they finally gathered around a campfire, a wise one among them stood and made a suggestion that lifted their clouds and enabled them to recapture their dreams. He urged the complaining crowd to start thanking God that they had come this far with no loss of life and strength enough left to finish their journey.
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A new attitude of gratitude changed everything. After giving thanks for things they had been taking for granted, an opportunity for voicing complaints was given but it was greeted with silence. Thanksgiving had turned their minds from problems to praise and sent them on their way with vision renewed and the confidence needed to achieve it.
Since Thanksgiving Day was approaching when I visited my friend, Frank, in the hospital, I read a few Bible verses to him from Psalm 103, David's great song of thanksgiving, a text I quote every morning. He seemed pleased to hear them but I had no idea of how they would impact his life. What I had considered to be just a friendly hospital call was far more than that to him.
Weeks later, I heard Frank tell a group of men that those words about the danger of forgetting to be thankful had changed his life. During that time of listening, he had placed his faith in the One to whom all our thanks are due.
Calls to be thankful abound in the Bible, including one that urges us to give thanks continually (1 Thessalonians 5:18), so let's not limit our gratefulness to Thanksgiving Day with its traditional feast and football celebration.
What will this practice of praise do for us?
The late A. W. Tozer, author of many favorite faith-based classics, wrote: "Now as a cure for the sour faultfinding attitude, I recommend the cultivation of the habit of thankfulness. The heart that is continually overflowing with thankfulness will be safe from attacks of resentfulness and gloom." He was also convinced that thankfulness contributed to good health, writing: "Thanksgiving has great curative powers."
Why not make a list of your reasons to be thankful?
And don't wait until Thanksgiving Day to express your thanks.
Roger Campbell is an author, broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org