Two Words to Bring Peace

How gratitude changes everything

It’s lunchtime in my kitchen, and my husband Dan and I are not arguing. Not lighting the short fuse on our long marriage. Not bickering about the too many things we’ve bickered about over these 44 years, most of which weren’t worth our time.

Instead, Dan is saying grace. No, not the way we used to say it—the same words mumbled lightning fast so we could get on with the eating. Instead, Dan is just quietly thanking God—not gripping his soup bowl, no saltine cracker halfway into his mouth. Instead, as the chicken-soup warmth wafts from his bowl, he simply talks. Thanking God:

For God’s kindness to us on this ordinary day.
For a car repair guy who was helpful.
For my sister’s foot surgery that went right and well.
For a neighbor who shoveled our sidewalk—again.
And, yes, for this food.

 

Our meal is nothing fancy—a tomato sandwich for me, a cup of soup and crackers for Dan. But fancy is relative. So, for some people, our not-fancy lunch would be a feast. Thus, Dan takes time to thank God for providing this meal—and this moment to eat it.

Sitting here in the afternoon light, giving thanks just seems right. We’re grateful for the people who grew the tomatoes, packaged the bread, put the soup in a can, and drove trucks to the grocery store so we could bring the nourishment home and be blessed.

Then, as we eat, something important is happening—something that wasn’t always the case: We’re at peace with one another, not arguing. And the connection between giving thanks and being at peace is no coincidence, say the people who study peacekeeping. Apparently, being grateful and saying it is connected to making peace and living it.

How else did Paul know to write in his letter to the Colossians, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Col. 3:15 NIV). 

And be thankful?

The connection between giving thanks and being at peace is no coincidence. Apparently, being grateful and saying it is connected to making peace and living it.

Where did that extra nugget come from? It seems like the wrong add-on. Be people of peace, because you were called to peace—and oh, by the way, be thankful?

As connections go, I can’t stop thinking about this odd link. It seems so random, so unlikely a pairing. Yet, we find it again in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Then there’s the Book of Leviticus, offering instructions for presenting peace offerings “by way of thanksgiving” (Lev. 7:11-15). Coincidental? Not so, say the experts. In fact, peace and gratitude are cousins in God’s eyes—so, the connection is logical, but also divine.

Thus, an Australian researcher at the University of Tasmania dares to argue that gratitude can contribute to world peace. Gratitude shines a light, says Dr. Kerry Howells, on "our sense of interconnectedness with one another." As she says, "just reflecting on gratitude for the rice we are about to eat at mealtimes can expand our awareness of those who planted the rice in India and then to those who harvested the rice and transported it and sold it. Thousands of people could have our thanks extended to them in this way."

Dan’s prognosis was hopeful, thankfully, but the treatment was long and hard.

But back to my humble household.

At our place, Dan and I didn’t start seeing gratitude in this way until a recent health struggle. Cancer came. Dan’s prognosis was hopeful, thankfully, but the treatment was long and hard. “Not fun,” was how he described it.

Yet on his multiple trips to doctors and hospitals over two hard years, he began to thank God even for little things. The stranger who held an elevator door for him. A child’s laugh. That neighbor who shoveled our sidewalk. A friend’s hello. Ordinary things. Yet expressing gratitude for them quieted Dan’s heart.

As his wife, I saw and felt this change. Dan had cancer, but he was calmer. Peaceful. Battling a foe but letting God wage the war. So, Dan said thanks all the time, it seemed.

And the result? A blessed peace—in himself, in our relationship, and with others. Once my sometimes-grumpy mate, he’d chosen the Lord’s peace. As D. L. Moody said, God hasn’t left us “to do” peace; “all we have to do is enter into it.”

Into Jesus we go, yes, who generously gives to us “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). Thus, when we see His goodness in others and thank Him, the sweet, unlikely result is His peace.

As D. L. Moody said, God hasn’t left us “to do” peace; “all we have to do is enter into it.”

I ponder this when I read over gratitude studies, including one where California scholars asked three groups of people to keep a journal—one describing their gratitude for things, another group describing their hassles, and a third describing neutral events. After 10 weeks, members of the gratitude group felt better than the other groups, and offered more emotional support to people around them—indeed, offered more peace—than the other groups.

Those results remind me of David’s writing of Psalm 23—an impassioned song of thanksgiving, or David’s own “gratitude journal.” To God’s people, David’s grateful words remain a deep well of assuring peace. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Words of thanksgiving, certainly. But they also exude hopeful peace and comfort for us as readers.

In these times, when many people are screaming at one another, holding each other at arm’s length—itching to fight and hating their neighbors, if not themselves—God Himself shows us a way to turn from our strife:

Say, “Thank You.”

Tell Him, Thank You—even for small things. The neighbor who shoveled. A laughing child. A loving spouse.   

Then watch as He transforms you into a peacemaker, sharing His love with His world.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Peace

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What happens to my notes

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

11 Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the LORD.

12 If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil.

13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread.

14 Of this he shall present one of every offering as a contribution to the LORD; it shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offerings.

15 Now as for the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning.

27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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