Ever feel like you’re being attacked on every side? Do you wish you could have a protective wall around you allowing you to finally rest?
Scripture reveals God as our refuge and strong tower, and he is a real strength; a constant never-sleeping guard.
But what’s our role in building up those walls? No surprise here, but gratitude is a critical ingredient.
Gratitude won’t keep you from all harm, but it will make you more resilient. Gratefulness strengthens your faith and helps you get back up when you fall.
Modern research shows the protective power of gratitude
Carolyn Todd reviewed several research studies to understand how gratitude helps people recover from traumas like school shootings, earthquakes, PTSD, and cancer. She discovered a consistent pattern where gratitude created a protective shield around those who practiced gratefulness versus those who did not.
In observing Vietnam war vets, researchers concluded that gratitude was a “significant, unique predictor of well-being.” In all cases, those who practice gratitude were able to transform their stress into growth as gratefulness broadens our perspective, relieves stress, connects us to our community, and makes us less self-focused.
Those sound like some biblical concepts!
#1: Gratitude broadens our perspective
Psalm 125 reminds us that when we trust in God we will not be shaken. Psalm 3 reminds us that God is a shield around us. Isaiah 55 declares that God’s ways are higher than ours.
When we read scripture and return thanks to God for who he is, our perspective naturally broadens. In addition, as we read the news, if we’ll spend time in prayer and thanksgiving we will find our view of the world changes.
As we discussed on Day 14, rehearsing scriptures like Psalm 107 or 136 provides great prompts to remember God’s past faithfulness. The perspective of history often gives us the ability to see our current circumstances with fresh eyes.
#2: Thankfulness causes anxiety to dissipate
Whenever I feel anxious the first scripture I turn to is Philippians 4:6-7 where Paul reminds us to pray and be thankful in the face of stress and anxiety. The promise is that God will replace anxiety with his peace.
A research study focused on college students for an entire year. They discovered that students who regularly practice gratitude had significantly lower levels of stress and depression.
#3: Gratefulness connects us to a protective community
When Peter and John returned to the faith community after being rebuked by the Sadducees in Acts 4, the believers joined together in prayer. For example, they prayed for boldness in proclaiming the gospel. They thanked God for the opportunity to suffer. As they prayed, the room shook giving them a great assurance that they were not alone.
#4: Gratitude keeps us more other-focused
As Paul teaches us in Philippians 2, Jesus modeled humility and submission as he accepted the burden of the cross for our salvation. We likewise are called to humble ourselves and look to the interests of others. If we remain grateful for the people who surround us, it will take our eyes off our interests and more focused on how to serve others. When we do this our problems will seem less weighty, more manageable, and we become more useful in God’s hands.
#5: Gratitude creates a protective shield
St. Patrick was first a slave to the Irish before he eventually escaped. After that, he received a call from God to return as a missionary to Ireland. He spent 30 years laboring and created such a massive impact that the entire nation became Christian or at least morally changed. He penned a poem called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” from which these words come that remind us of Christ’s constant presence and protection. He knew what it meant to trust in Christ’s defense against his former captors.
ST. PATRICK’S BREASTPLATE
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to see before me,
God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me,
I arise todaySt. Patrick’s Breastplate
God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to secure me –
against snares of devils,
against temptations and vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me
ill, afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd…
Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,
Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
Listen to this song and thank God for ways that come to mind where he protects you above, below, behind, and before you. After that, write some of those in your gratitude journal as reminders.
Father, I thank you for your constant presence, your vigilant defense, your power over evil, and your incomparable love. May your Holy Spirit give me faith to trust you at all times and show me ways to keep doing good until you return. When I fall, please assure me of your unlimited mercy. When I succeed, protect me from trusting in myself. Please go before me and stand behind me. Watch over me and undergird me. Defend me on all sides and use me for your kingdom purposes. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.