By John Blase
It’s cool to be grateful. At least that’s one way to put it. Everyone from celebrities to professional athletes to cultural gurus are praising the benefits of being thankful. Gratitude is showing up these days in long-form essays, evening news reports, popular podcasts, and conferences as a positive factor for everything from the quality of our hearts to the clarity of our minds to getting a good night’s sleep.
The medical and psychological community has been studying gratitude and its effects for well over a decade now. Studies have shown that gratitude can improve blood-vessel function, lower the risk of heart failure, take the edge off chronic pain, and lessen the effects of depression. The emphasis there is on the word can. As usual, there are always other factors involved (environment, heredity, physical activity), and so it’s difficult to prove conclusively the positive side effects of gratitude. But there are definitely enough testimonies to help us think it’s cool to be grateful.
One specific area researchers are now studying is the significance of our gratitude’s focus. In other words, the importance of who or what we are thanking.
As Jesus made His way to Jerusalem, He encountered ten lepers. Their cry was common to Jesus’s ears: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13). Jesus did, and as they went on their way, they were healed. One out of the ten turned back to focus on the target of his gratitude: Jesus, the Master. Luke tells us this Samaritan man, a foreigner, “fell facedown at his feet, thanking him.” Jesus told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you” (vv.16,19).
Did the Samaritan experience physical healing from his leprosy? Scripture says he did. From that moment on, did he also experience improved blood circulation, more meaningful personal relationships, and a better night’s sleep? Well, Scripture doesn’t say. But what Jesus does tell us is that the Samaritan received salvation, possibly the greatest health benefit one could hope or ask for in this life.
Why didn’t the other nine men go back and thank Jesus? We don’t know. We only know they didn’t. But one, a Samaritan, turned back and said, “Thank you.” His gratitude earned him a place in the biblical record, and we’re still talking about him to this day. Whether or not it’s cool to be grateful shouldn’t really be our focus, for what’s cool changes with the weather. What we know for certain is that it’s good to be grateful, very good indeed.
Written by John Blase