Today’s thoughts are simply a draft of what my mind has been turning over for a while.
Everyone goes through hard times. No doubt about it. Life is riddled with them. Sometimes we get upset that no one is listening. No one is understanding. No one is sympathizing. No one is getting it.
But sometimes even then we are privileged to hope for sympathy and understanding.
Growing up I hated to hear “eat your food, children in Africa are starving” or my husband’s personal favourite: “you have so much to be thankful for!”
Although there were good and normal and many things, that did not dissolve the reality that there was a large and looming distressing thing.
I’m not trying to disqualify the extent to which we all suffer whether with little or with much. But over the last few weeks I’ve begun to do some serious querying about how gratitude and joy correlate.
When we allow a single situation to overwhelm our lives and our happiness. We anxiously pursue a stamp of approval stemming from a collection of wanton qualities and possessions. When we are caught in a fray of anxiety or anger or sadness, do we take time to find out if there is anything to be grateful for?
From recent history I call to mind the plight of the Amazon, a series of mass shootings, the ravaging of the Bahamas by a hurricane and families who sit day in and out praying for all they are worth to see a loved one restored to function.
Is there anything to be grateful for?
For me, there is too much. And each time I am tempted to give way to the submersion of defeat, I reflect on how grief has overcome someone else. How lack has dictated their decisions. How desperation has become their bread. How privileged I am, no matter how I turn it to still have things better. To still have what seems so bad as good. To still have options. I become challenged by how those who have so much less than I do still find a way to hope through it.
Still, no matter how I do turn it, gratitude is not something which should emerge by comparison. Although one of the most effective ways to inspire gratitude is to see what we have to give to those who are in more need than we are, we must realise that gratitude is not dependent on circumstance. It’s a purposely curated attitude. It is needed in times of darkness and in times of light. When things are hard we need gratitude so that we don’t stumble into hopelessness and die. When things are well we need gratitude or we overlook what we have while busily seeking more. It is steadily rooted in steady faith in a steady God.
We all have been blessed with so much that we take for granted, even our lives. We tend to behave as if we are owed things as if we deserve them. Perhaps sometimes we feel this way unwittingly because of how much we have to be grateful for.
After all, according to James 1.17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Everything we have, including the breath we breathe are gifts. What I find most astonishing is the most grateful people are often those who have the least and those of us who forget to be thankful are those who have so much!
When we have little we count it. We know how valuable it is because we cannot afford to lose it. How much more for those of us who have much? And because we have much we should be all the more motivated to give and to share.
Gratitude reduces us to such humility that we understand the importance of assisting others so that they may have too. We see wealth where otherwise we might grumble about inadequacy. I’m not at all suggesting that we settle, but if we practiced asking ourselves:
Is there anything to be grateful for?
We might find we have more answers than we can ever imagine. Still in what we can’t imagine, in everything, give thanks. We are blessed more than we know.