“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Rabbi Harold Kushner
Gratitude is the discipline of being thankful for all the good things we have in life. And for most, the list of blessings is very long.
The problem is, as humans, we tend to focus on the things that are not going well in life.
Will Rogers once said, “The Pilgrims gave thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected. But now, neither government nor nature can give enough but what we think is too little. If we can’t gather in a new Buick, a new radio, a tuxedo, and some government relief, why, we feel that the world is against us.”
Our culture is consumed with having more and I think it has a lot to do with the philosophy that getting just a little bit more will bring us happiness.
QUESTION: “How much will be enough to satisfy our souls and fill our hearts?” How much?
There was a woman who went into a life or death surgery. She wasn’t sure she’d make it through. During the surgery she heard this voice say, “You still have 42 more years to live.”
When she woke up from surgery she called the surgeon over and said, “I’m going to live a long time now so while I’m here I think I’ll have a little extra work.”
She had liposuction, a tummy tuck, a face lift, some injections. She had a friend come by and color her hair. A few days later she was discharged from the hospital.
As she was walking out she was hit by a cab and killed.
She’s standing before God and said, “I thought You said I’d live 42 more years! How come You let that cab hit me?”
God said, “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you.”
The prodigal son was the story Jesus told about this young runaway boy. He shuns his dad, takes his inheritance and leaves his home with a pocket full of money and has a bar room full of friends.
If CNN had sent a news crew to that bar and asked the young man, “What’s life like? How are you now enjoying this life of rebellion, your plunge into decadence, in this moment?”
At that moment the young man would have said, “It’s the best decision of my life! In this moment my life is filled with pure pleasure.”
It wasn’t until sometime later – we’re not sure how long – the prodigal son’s pleasure ended. He ran out of money and his friends ran out on him. He was homeless, he was unhappy.
Living for pleasure only – pleasure at any price – is like jumping off a tall building. The first 95% of the fall might be sheer thrill but that last 5% is going to get you!
Pleasure is not bad. But even positive pleasure is temporary.
For example, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had? How long until you’re hungry again?
What’s the best night’s sleep you have ever had? How long until you were tired again?
What’s the best kiss you’ve ever had? How long until you needed to be kissed again?
Another thought about gratitude, is that it is hard to be grateful when you are holding on to grudges.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.”
Resenting other people’s success, your heritage, your economic status, your hurts and abuses of life will rob you quickly of any type of joy.
Comparing and resentment go hand in hand.
Celebrating your God given uniqueness allows you to be grateful for your irreplaceable gifts and distinct reason you were put here on earth!
Don’t let others determine how extraordinary you are. It’s up to you!
People are far more talented and brilliant than they give themselves credit for.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind
don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
~ Dr. Seuss
Another thought about gratitude, is that to be truly thankful, it must be INCLUSIVE.
Job said, “If we take happiness from God’s hand, must we not take sorrow too?”
Author Henri Nouwen wrote, “To be thankful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only thankful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”
I call it “Learning to find joy in the TENSION of life.”
We are taught that when we are without challenge and problem-free that then we will finally be happy.
Living in the tension means that we live every day facing and feeling the problems and hurts and challenges of life, while celebrating and thanking God for all the good things that are going on.
Stephen Covey writes, “Fish discover water last. They are so immersed in the element that they are unaware of it. So it is with many people who become so immersed in an abundance of blessings and opportunities that they are unaware of them until they stop, pause, and reflect and allow gratitude to emerge. Sadly, too often it takes the force of circumstance rather than the force of conscience to stir up our gratitude.”
Gratitude: A sunrise, a rainfall, the smile and embrace by someone special, a glass of red wine with your spouse, God’s amazing Grace, the food on your table, the laughter of children, the step you just took, the breath you just breathed, the wind blowing past your face, a celebration with friends.
Tony Campolo tells a story about getting on an elevator in the Empire State Building in New York City, “It was one of those express elevators that goes fifty floors without making a stop. The elevator was filled with briefcase-bearing, somber business men on their way to “heavy” meetings. As I got on the elevator, a feeling of fun ran through me. And, instead of turning and facing the door, as we are all socialized to do, I just stood there facing the people. When the elevator doors closed, I smiled coyly and announced, “We’re going to be traveling together for quite a while, you know.” And then I added, “What do you say we all sing?” The looks were amazing, but they all ended up singing. You should have been there as a dozen or so businessmen threw aside their put-on seriousness and joined me in a ringing rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” By the time the elevator got to the fiftieth floor we were laughing. Being a Christian on that elevator helped some men, made numb by the affairs of this world, discover a little joy that can happen when we celebrate together.”
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
“Emit gratitude as though it was done”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Take the time to fill in the blanks:
I am grateful when…__________________________
I am grateful for…____________________________
I struggle with gratitude when…__________________