Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
If you follow the world of tennis, the name Arthur Ashe will probably mean something to you. He was a real superstar. He won five Grand Slam finals. He was the first black tennis player to win the US Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
But he was plagued with ill health over the last 14 years of his life before he died aged 50 in 1993. After undergoing a quadruple bypass operation in 1979, he had a second bypass operation in 1983. In 1988 he underwent emergency brain surgery after experiencing paralysis of his right arm.
A biopsy taken during a hospital stay revealed that Ashe had AIDS. Doctors soon discovered that Ashe had contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from a transfusion of blood that he was given during his second heart operation.
It was a sad loss to the tennis world. He was admired by many for his exemplary behaviour, on and off the court. People were amazed at his positive attitude. He knew he was dying with AIDS and yet remained cheerful: “I have been blessed in my life. I married a beautiful gifted woman and had a wonderful child”. He certainly did not grumble about life, despite devastating news with his own health. He left behind a wonderful example.
Gratitude Improves Our Wellbeing
I think it’s important to have a grateful attitude every day. Have you got things for which you are grateful? This story is told of two old friends, Bob and Eddie, who bumped into one another on the street one day. Bob looked miserable, almost on the verge of tears.
Eddie asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”
Bob said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, my long-lost uncle died and left me $40,000.”
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“That’s a lot of money,” Eddie replied.
Bob continued, “Two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me $85,000.”
“Sounds like you’ve been blessed…” Eddie began to say.
“You don’t understand!” Bob interrupted. “Last week a distant aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.”
Now Eddie was confused, “Then, why do you look so gloomy?”
Bob responded, “This week—no one died!”
A U.S. News & World Report article said, “People who made a daily and/or frequent habit of being thankful were not only more joyful; they were healthier, less stressed, more optimistic, and more likely to help others.”
Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions.
Oprah Winfrey used to say, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” That makes sense—psychological research shows that gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness.
Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, have good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. No-one is born thankful. Thankfulness doesn’t come naturally to us, and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Rather, thankfulness is a quality that must be fostered and nurtured.
The Christian faith has quite a bit to say about gratitude. The Bible is clear: everything we own or have is given to us as a gift to be used by a loving God. Life is a gift from him, to be treasured and used, both for self but also for others. On The Simpsons, when Bart is asked to offer thanks at a family meal, he says, “Dear God, we bought all of this stuff with our own money, so thanks for nothing.”
Bart Simpson’s prayer summarises the reigning thoughts of our age. Often the more we have, the more likely we are to say, Thanks for nothing. Maybe we are never content. We want more and more. People whose lives are not marked with gratitude—whose lives are governed by a sense of entitlement or grievance—are often unhappy.
The happiest people are those who are grateful to God for everything.
No matter how much they have in material wealth, health, or success, their lives are fractured or incomplete if they don’t possess a sense of gratitude. C.S. Lewis observed that grateful people are emotionally healthy people. He wrote, “Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”
Have you noticed the happiest people are those who are grateful to God for everything? After all the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (GW), “Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.”