By Dr. Michael Jacobson, D.O., M.P.H., CHM Medical Director
*Editor’s note: This information was published in the December 2021 issue of Heartfelt Magazine, CHM’s monthly magazine that provides CHM membership-related tips and tricks, medical advice from doctors, testimonies from CHM members, and more. Please refer to the CHM Guidelines and applicable web pages for the most up-to-date information regarding CHM membership, sharing eligibility, and ministry news.*
Last month, I introduced gratitude as a precursor to happiness. This month, we celebrate the greatest gift ever given—the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth. When Mary had the nature of the baby within her confirmed by Elizabeth, Mary couldn’t help but express overwhelming gratitude. She said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior… For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name (Luke 1: 46-49).”
When you receive a gift, your focus can go to one of three places: First, you can focus on the gift itself. This is idolatry and robs you of the benefits of gratitude as well as a deeper relationship with the giver. Closely related to this, we can focus on ourselves, which is entitlement—the opposite of gratitude. But the most appropriate response to a gift is to focus on the gift giver, as Mary did.
Here are three key benefits to genuine gratitude toward the Giver of gifts.
- First, as author Shawn Achor noted, when we’re grateful and happy, dopamine floods our brains, and we actually learn and think better!
- Second, it results in true happiness, elevating our emotional state. Choosing gratefulness feels great!
- Third, gratitude is the fertile soil necessary to cultivate faith.
In Romans 1:18, Paul wrote that everyone knows deep down that a Creator exists. The evidence is all around. But ungratefulness is one of two things that keep people from believing. “Because that, when they knew God, they did not give God credit, neither were thankful” (Romans 1: 21).
Paul describes a slippery slope. Beginning with ungratefulness, people become progressively more foolish in their thinking until they get to the point where they believe good is evil and evil is good.
When you gather this season, magnify and be thankful to the Giver!