Few of us would rejoice to hear that we should visit an oral surgeon. My daughter didn't either. But those wisdom teeth needed to go.
I drove her to the clinic when the day came and waited to receive word of a successful procedure. She wouldn't be in any shape to drive herself home!
When she woke up up from the anesthetic she thanked the dentist. She thanked his assistants. She thanked the person who helped her into the wheel chair and pushed her out to the waiting room. She thanked the bookkeeper and receptionist. She thanked me. She thanked strangers in the waiting room and in the outside hallway. She thanked everyone in sight.
We still giggle about it sometimes today, about a decade later. She was of course, helped in her happy, giddy thankfulness by the residual anesthetic that also impaired her judgment for driving. She likely needed some pain medication when that subsided from her system.
On the other hand, gratitude releases chemicals in our brain that correlate with happiness, which easily feeds more gratitude. Mike McHargue in a recent book, Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found it Again through Science, notes that in many respects we are our brains. While ancient people viewed their thoughts and feelings as located in their hearts or guts, neuroscience correlates it with billions of neurons connected by transmitting dendrites and supported by trillions of glial cells, all communicating with the each other and the rest of the body via electrical and chemical signals.
Scripture instructs, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How have you learned to do that? We all need to know our own selves here.
I can mostly speak to what activates my brain when I seek to be grateful, but find it difficult. I might go out of doors, especially when the sun shines. I might get some exercise for my body to free my brain. Sometimes devoting myself to completing a practical project kicks things loose. Or treating myself to engaging a friend or enjoying a simple pleasure like a square of dark chocolate. Taking time to pray or read some from a psalm of thanksgiving can also wake up those instincts. This noon I read and prayed: "You are good and bring forth good; instruct me in your statutes," (Psalm 119:68); and "You strengthen me more and more; you enfold and comfort me," (Psalm 71:21).
The adage holds that practice makes permanent. The more we practice thanksgiving, like riding a bike, the easier it comes back to us. We can choose to rewire our brain along those line. The good news of trusting in Jesus Christ, is that we know who to thank!
Pastor Jim Byrne
The faithful presence