“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
So we are reaching that time of year again: Thanksgiving, Advent, then the Season of Christmas. And while this Thursday is also often lightheartedly referred to as “turkey day,” I think we can all agree that it ain’t about the turkey. Or the mashed potatoes, or the football, or the family political feuds. And it certainly is not about Black Friday.
One of the most common complaints we hear about younger people today is that they have grown up with a sense of entitlement. But I would submit that we are all, to one degree or another, guilty of this, at least in western civilization. It’s the result of having things relatively easy, at least compared to what life was typically like for most people throughout human history, until perhaps just a century ago. That, along with the benefit of living in the United States of America, leads to most people in the world believing, quite rightfully so, that we Americans have it pretty good (even now, as we approach the closing of 2023).
Of course we all realize that this cushy life we have here in the United States could change dramatically, and instantly…or do we?
Likely, most of us do; however, we may not always remember it. Perhaps that is why we should be thankful for the blessings we have in life every day, not just on turkey day. Speaking personally from past experience dealing with severe clinical depression, had I not learned the importance of gratitude to God for the simplest gifts in life, I do not know where I would be today. Three examples of these gifts (the recognition of which come straight out of my past experience with depression):
- A good night’s sleep. I know it’s up to me to ensure that I get one, but when I rise in the morning, I speak a word of thanks to God.
- Sunshine. Natural sunlight is crucial for health on all levels. Here in central Ohio, we are entering the the seasons of shorter days, and less sunshine. Those of you down south reading who are accustomed to year-round warmth and sunshine, give thanks!
- Tolerable pain. Yes, you read that correctly. Several years ago, I experienced nearly a year of excruciating, debilitating sciatica, primarily caused by emotional issues (nothing structural). While I overcame this through self-treatment, recently I’ve had a mild recurrence, and as I write it is now fading. While I’d never wish for it to return, the fact that it did for a short while presented an opportunity to practice what we Christians call redemptive suffering, uniting our pain with Christ’s Passion as an offering either for ourselves or others. The opening of the Book of James also cites the importance being grateful for such opportunities to grow in perseverance.
Lastly, the word tolerable on item three requires some context: I do not mean mild or easy. Anything we survive, we do so by tolerating, often beyond what we ever imagined was possible. It is during these times of trial that God permits upon us, so that we will reach out and seek His Grace, which is “Divine Assistance to achieve that which we cannot achieve on our own.” Indeed this is the essence of the 12-Step Recovery Movement.
The last point to remember that I will share here, and referencing the article title above, is the importance of living in a state of constant gratitude, not just when things are going our way. The reason being: to only be grateful when we are getting what we want, isn’t gratitude at all.