Solomon, the wisest man who lived, gave this warning: Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences. Ultimately, it is in your heart where all issues of life are processed and filtered. Your heart is “a metaphor for the center of the person, the inner core where all aspects of the person converge—the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, and the spiritual. The heart is the essence of who
Issues pertaining to fear and stress are taxing on your body. If not managed effectively, stress can be detrimental to your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “stress can lead to illness, increased blood glucose levels, increased anxiety or depression and mood swings”. Today, stress is everywhere. Externally, if you have been paying attention to reports on the Syrian refugee crisis and the threat of Islamic extremism, you probably have felt the fear and stress generated by the digital world. And, no doubt, you probably have your own battle to fight on the home front. To use an expression of the Apostle Paul’s, there is “fighting on the outside and fear on the inside”.
The body is not designed to carry fear and stress, especially for a long period of time. Your human body functions best in an environment of love. But when your heart becomes filled with fear, hatred, bitterness, pain, or stress, there is no room for love. “Like a sponge it can only absorb so much emotion. Once it’s saturated, there’s little room left for love and joy and beauty” (In Search of the Heart, p.8). In order to achieve optimum health and wellness, then, you have to nurture your heart.
Gratitude nurtures the heart
As Thanksgiving approaches in the United States, the word “gratitude” is “what’s trending” on social media. Thanksgiving, however, is not just a day or an event; it is a lifestyle. Gratitude is the virtue of life that opens the heart to love, joy, peace, goodness and all the other intangible beauties of life.
Gratitude makes you aware
When all goes dark, the light of gratitude has the ability to find the good in life. Research has shown that when you practice gratitude, you boost your immune system and you are happier in life. Participants in a study who wrote for 10 weeks about what they were grateful for were more optimistic and had a better sense of well- being than those who wrote about what irritated them. Counting your blessings has physical and emotional benefits because gratitude makes you aware of the goodness in life. When you allow gratitude to open your eyes to goodness, good overcomes evil. Gratitude diffuses the darkness and negativity.
Gratitude opens your heart to love
All goodness in life is divinely connected. No matter what is happening in your life, God’s love endures for you, and His enduring love produces goodness. Sometimes you may wonder “Where is the Love?” as an American hip-hop group sings: “Take control of your mind and meditate / Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all.”
Though love may be difficult to see at times, belief and obedience must trump sight for the believer. You are instructed by the Scriptures to give thanks to God because of His goodness and love: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). God’s love is interwoven with the universe He created. Because of His love, goodness overcomes evil and love overcomes hatred. No matter what happens, no matter what you see, love has the power to overcome fear, darkness and evil. For God is love; He is the light and He is good all the time.
Gratitude is the attitude of the heart
So important is gratitude that it is the entrance into the presence of the Divine. You enter his gates with thanksgiving. Gratitude is the protocol demanded of you when you approach the King, who is the Creator. When your heart is healthy, you are likely to be grateful for everything. You are grateful for life running through your veins and every cell in your body. You are thankful to open your eyes and see the beauty of nature, to find the gift in suffering and to find love when you surrender your pain and hurt.
When your heart is wounded, broken or crushed, it is the power of gratitude that opens it to receive the healing and transformative power of love. The heart feeds on love just like a child grows in an environment of love. Fear and stress—the cares of this life—choke out love. Therefore, breathe deeply. Live deeply—enter fully into life. Take the time to meditate on God’s work and muse on His deeds. When you practice a life of gratitude, you focus on the good, which allows peace to enter your heart. As a result, you have a healthier perspective of life, a better sense of well-being, and a faith that sustains you not just for the next life but for life in the here and now.
Now is your time to shine!
Allen, David. In Search of the Heart. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993.