A Thanksgiving That Will Really Make You Happy

Thanksgiving 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Usually that’s our way of saying we hope everything goes well as someone celebrates this holiday.  We hope our family and friends are able to navigate the holiday with minimal unpleasantness: no burnt turkeys, drunk uncles, fights over dinner, or traffic.  It’s our way of saying we hope you have fun, get to relax, and maybe even get a nap at some point over the weekend.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that but it misses the deeper reality of that greeting – being thankful actually makes us happy!

By the way, that’s not sentimentality.  It’s science.  Study after study has confirmed that being thankful makes us happier.  When we take time to reflect on the things that make us grateful and express that gratitude, it actually changes us on a neurobiological level.  Being thankful causes our brains to release both dopamine and serotonin.  Dopamine is the chemical that makes us happy, optimistic, sociable, and goal-oriented.  Serotonin is an anti-depressant that increases will power and motivation.   So, if we do this thanksgiving thing correctly, it should literally make us happier!

The Apostle Paul didn’t understand the neurobiology of gratitude but he knew the experiential reality of it.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

That’s my prayer for you this Thanksgiving.  May the peace of God guard your heart as you allow gratitude to mingle with your need in a way that drives away anxiety.  May the joy of Christ be yours as you meditate on the goodness, mercy, and provision of God in your life.  May you be more focused on the blessings you celebrate than the details of your celebration.

So, Happy Thanksgiving.  Or maybe I should say, “Thanksgiving Will Make You Happy.”

Happiness Has A Shelf Life

“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

– Ecclesiastes 2:9-11

Have you ever noticed that happiness has a pretty short shelf life?  There are so many things in life that give us a quick hit but ultimately leave us unsatisfied.  Those things aren’t necessarily bad; they can even be quite good.  The problem is they just don’t last.  A good cup of coffee seems to buy 2-3 hours of bliss in my world.  A great date night with Laura might carry over for a day or two.  An awesome vacation might last for a week or two.  But none of it lasts.  It all fades.

Sometimes it fades slowly and some times it crashes dramatically.  The awesome night on the town is obliterated by a killer headache the next day.  A few hours of lustful passion is overwhelmed by guilt and shame on the way home in the morning.  The need to tell someone off ends up killing a friendship.  The “retail therapy” shopping trip just pushes you further into debt.

That’s what Solomon is warning us about in this passage.  All of our best accomplishments will ultimately let us down.  The high won’t last.  We’ll enjoy it for a moment and then desperately start looking for our next hit.  We’re always searching and striving, never satisfied, always yearning for what’s next, what’s more, what’s better.

The story of humanity is a story of thirsty souls.  That’s why Jesus’ words are so compelling, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”(John 4:13-14)  He was talking to a broken woman by a well who kept looking for happiness in relationships.  But He might as well be talking right to us.

In Jesus we find a joy that never fades.  In Him, we find everything our souls are craving.  His mercies are new every day.  His promises endure forever.  He’s constantly good and working for our good.  He’s fully aware of the desperate need of our souls and He’s fully able to satisfy the thirst.

Jesus has no shelf life.  He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb.13:8)  Let’s not get so caught up in the temporary, the fleeting and the fading.  Let’s pursue the fountain of living water and allow Him to satisfy our souls fully and completely.