Have you ever had one of those days when you’re angry at everything and nothing in particular? I had one recently. I went for a walk in an attempt to burn off my anxiety. Two laps around a spacious field of wildflowers near my home released some endorphins, but didn’t make a dent in my foul mood.
I pulled out my earbuds and fired up a playlist on my phone populated with praise music. My soul began to lift.
Then I came upon an older man driving a golf cart along the path, with a woman of a similar age as his passenger. She appeared to have some cognitive challenges as she seemed pretty unresponsive. I guessed that they were husband and wife. Perhaps he had been visiting her in the nearby mental health center and decided to take her for a ride on what was a beautiful day.
They were together, but not really. At least not in the same way my wife and I are when we go for a ride together, talking all the way. In that couple, silently traversing fields of wildflowers under the late-summer sun, not only did I see true love, deep loyalty, and the kind of frail but breathtaking beauty that only arises from brokenness, I also saw a million reasons to be thankful.
I turned off the path and headed back home, returning a happier, more hopeful person than the one who left.
Anxiety is the dominant emotion of our time. It’s a constant companion as we slog through our days, scan the headlines, and scroll through our social media feeds.
Fortunately, there is a cure and it doesn’t cost a dime.
The antidote to anxiety is gratitude.
If you are feeling anxious, make a list of ten things you are grateful for. It’s impossible to do this and not feel better. I double dog dare you to make a list of 100 and tell me your mood is not completely transformed.
Anxiety is anticipating the bad in what may never happen.
Gratitude is acknowledging the good in what already has.
Why does gratitude make us feel better? This painting explores this phenomenon while addressing another. The photo I used as reference was taken during my family’s whale watching tour while in Mexico. I’m still amazed that we had the opportunity to see a humpback whale breach. I’m also amazed that mankind still doesn’t know exactly why whales exhibit this behavior. Scientists have theories about why they breach: to communicate, attract other whales, or warn off other males. But no one knows exactly why – yet.
Well, how about this as a theory: what if they’re literally jumping for joy?
Maybe all of creation has its own unique way of practicing gratitude and praising God. Maybe that’s why whales breach, fireflies glow, and swallows whoosh and whirl playfully in the air.
Maybe we were made for it.
And maybe that’s why we feel out of balance when we aren’t doing it and feel better when we do.
It is just a theory, but a bestselling book proclaims, “Let the sea resound, and all that is in it…Let all creation rejoice before the Lord.”
It appears highly ironic to suggest turning to gratitude in times of anxiety, grief, or pain. After all, we usually think of “jumping for joy” when we feel good over something remarkable that’s happened.
The truth is, something remarkable is always happening.
Praise aligns us with our Creator, giving us the new eyes we need to see it.
What are you grateful for today?