BRADY COLUMN: The power of gratitude

Published 9:30 am Saturday, November 19, 2022

Years ago, I flew with 18 others to the Republic of Panama on a preaching mission. I was young and somewhat nervous about flying over the ocean. Evidently, my neighbor minister, who was a bit older, sitting in the next seat was aware of my anxiety. He jokingly asked, “What are you worried about?” I said, “Oh, nothing really, just thinking about my family and that ocean down below.” He replied, “I’m just grateful to be here. I had a heart attack not long ago and wasn’t sure whether I would even be able to make it.” In that minister’s gratitude and my own, I soon overcame my anxiety.

Recall the words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God.” In saying “with thanksgiving” here, Paul is telling us of the tremendous power of personal release to be found in the exercise of gratitude. A psychologist has stated that Paul’s advice found in that verse of scripture, Philippians 4:6, contains some of the soundest psychological advice that could be given to anxious people. Paul, he points out does not simply give them the futile advice, “Don’t worry,” nor does he fall into the opposite error of sympathizing with them and thereby concentrating their attention the more upon the thing they are worried about. According to the psychologist, it is a psychological truth that contrary states one mind expel one another. Paul’s advice is so good because when thanksgiving arises in any human heart, anxiety tends automatically to be dispelled.

In a familiar story, Norman Vincent Peale, we’ll known New York minister, was discussing his problems one night with Dr. William Stidger, Professor of Preaching at Boston University, Dr, Stidger was talking about how wonderful life is. Dr. Peale said, “I tried to bring up some of my problems, but he just said, Norman, God is bigger than all those problems. Don’t be worried about them.’” And he was full of joy. Dr. Peale said, “I tried to ask him how he got that way-so full of vitality and faith and joy.” 

And Dr. Peale continued, “I never forgot his answer. Dr. Stinger said, ‘I learned years ago to practice the attitude of gratitude.’” The late Baptist minister, John Claypool, pointed out that “It is gratitude more than anything else that is the difference between just making the best of life and making the most of life.” To be sure, there is tremendous power to be found in the exercise of gratitude. Gratitude is the channel through which the Divine releases the fears and anxieties in the human heart. And numbers of us know from our own experience that where there is gratitude, worry and anxiety have lessened or disappeared. Happy Thanksgiving!