Originally published in the WFCF Newsletter, Vol. 11, No. 1, February 2017
To me, the simplicity of this observation underscores how little we express gratitude for our circumstances and station in life. Whether one believes in prayer or its effectiveness is irrelevant. In our own ways, all of us give thanks. It’s easy to give thanks for positive outcomes, joyous occasions, and the occasional release from the stresses of daily life in this fast-paced society. This is western perspective where it’s common to avoid difficult circumstances at any cost, even though hidden within those circumstances is often found the answer to the cause of the problem and our way out of it.
We seek to avoid pain at all costs, which ironically causes greater pain, yet, many report that embracing the pain and its source often triggers a release and allows for a broader perspective and fresh view of circumstances that were feared beforehand. We lack faith to believe in things unseen, most often the future. Yet, God has told us that he will care for us better than the birds in the trees. Is not our mere existence proof of this? But few see any reason to be thankful for their existence. Wants become needs and lead to frustration and disappointment when what we think is necessary for our health and well-being is measured by our desires and what the world offers. Material support is important to survival, but much of what we regard as necessary is superfluous.
For our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, multitudes of whom lack the essentials and comforts we take for granted, seeing the sun shine, eating a regular meal, sleeping without the fear of attack or displacement, and getting basic medical care are daily quests. Life as we know it is but a dream for these poor souls who become political footballs in power quests, which have less to do with true politics than with despots maintaining power bases. Thankfully, our political system allows us to reject those who seek to exploit it for their own ends; in other parts of the world, such democratic processes are unknown. People live in oppression, subjugated to tyranny, brutality and human rights violations that are atrocious and hard to comprehend, if only as one human to another.
The next time you complain about what is happening to you, reflect for a moment on the exact nature of that circumstance. What is the real source of pain about which you complain? How does it affect your well-being, if at all? How does it compare to what others are experiencing and what lessons can be learned from that comparison? What if instead of complaining, you gave thanks at that moment? What if all you said was “thank you.” The God of your choosing will honor your expression of gratitude. Stay open for a message that may not be what you want or expect. God is bigger than us and our problems, thankfully.