Thankfulness Pushes Anxiety Away

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Col. 3:15-16

Luke 17:11–19 tells of the time when Jesus healed ten lepers but only one of them returned to show his gratitude. Christ had healed the leper physically—but, much more importantly, our Lord had also healed the leprosy of the sin in his heart. According to Jesus, this man’s faith made him “well” (Luke 17:19). What distinguished this man from the other nine? He met Jesus as his Savior, not just as a healer. As a result, he became a new creature in Christ. And his soul-saving encounter produced in him a heart of thankfulness.

The thankful leper’s conversion illustrates the new-creature expectation that is found in many New Testament letters—the expectation that sinners saved by grace will be filled with gratitude. The larger context of today’s verses is God’s command to believers to “put off the old self with its practices” and “put on the new self ” (Col. 3:9–10).

Two spiritual disciplines cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Let the peace of God rule your heart.

An attitude of gratitude is directly connected to whether or not the peace of God rules our hearts. Having the peace of God is different from being at peace with God. Peace with God is positional—it is related to who we are in Christ. We are no longer enemies but friends, submissive kingdom citizens, and children (see John 15:15; Col. 1:21–22; 1 John 3:2). But the peace of God is experiential—it’s a calm assurance that guards our inner person through Word-based trust, the Holy Spirit, and prayer (see Isa. 26:3; Rom. 14:17; Phil. 4:6–7). When God’s peace rules our hearts, anxiety has a harder time getting in. It’s far too easy for us to search for quick fixes to our worries, such as rearranging our circumstances. (Difficult job? Find another one. Difficult relationship? Avoid the other person.) While this may provide us temporary relief, long-lasting experiential peace comes from positional peace. In order for us to quell our anxieties, we must first be made right with God.

Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you.

Meditating on the Word permits it to sink deeply into our inner person. It challenges and changes our minds’ worries and our hearts’ fears, which produces joy. This joy then produces a desire in us to sing Christ-exalting praise. It seems clear from this text that a thankful spirit flows from a heart that is touched by grace, controlled by the Spirit, and fed by the Word.

So when we are anxious, we should ask, “What’s going on in my heart?” More than likely, we lack the attitude of gratitude that flows from the rule and enrichment of the Word.

Though anxiety and ingratitude are common bedfellows, they should not be a lifestyle for those who know Christ.

  • Reflect: When do you sing praise to God? Is the Sunday gathering of God’s people the only time when you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? If so, why?
  • Reflect: What changes do you need to make concerning your intake of the Word through reading, study, and memorization? If you are not sure how to make these changes, find a mature Christian and ask for help.
  • Act: Begin a “why I’m thankful” list in your journal, and add to it as the Spirit brings to your mind ways in which God’s grace has been poured into your life.

[Adapted from the 31-day devotional, Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace]

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