I’ve been reading a book by a Christian author on the metro home from work each night. The book has opened my eyes as to what it means to be, as the author puts it, a “Capital C Christian,” or a true follower of Jesus Christ. A chapter in this book talks about gratitude and explains how sometimes we can unknowingly be prideful in our gratitude. For example, as we reflect upon the good fortune of our lives and count our blessings, do we (often inadvertently) turn our backs to others who may not have been so fortunate? Below is a quote from the book:
“Others are thankful for their circumstances and good fortune (knock on wood). They glance at the hunger telethons and ‘feel so lucky’ to have a pantry full of food. They read about the rising number of AIDS-related deaths and feel so lucky not to have to deal with such a plague. They hear about a neighbor with cancer and thank their lucky stars not to have it. They learn about the adulterous co-worker and wonder if his rejected wife drove him to it. These people think they’re the lucky ones and hope luck won’t run out.”
Can I get an amen? I’ve definitely been there. In fact, I was there last week. Let me explain… Last week my car had some challenges. Thankfully there is a car repair shop walking distance from my house. Last week was also a very cold week. As I was walking home from the repair shop, I began to reflect upon how grateful I am to have a warm home. I started thinking about my pioneer ancestors who had to trek across the United States in freezing temperatures. I thought about how grateful I am I was not in that situation, and I felt a little bit of guilt because I realized my gratitude for my warmth was perhaps stronger than my sympathy for their plight. But then my guilt increased ten-fold as I remembered an announcement made at church that I had brushed aside and forgotten about. It was announced that a number of church congregations from our area would be collecting blankets for the Syrian refugees. I heard the announcement, and yet I did nothing about it.
I knew the recollection of this announcement was a lesson from God. I needed in that moment to be reminded that gratitude is active. When we are truly grateful, we don’t just find satisfaction in our personal blessings, but we seek out ways to help others.
I’ve learned that life can change in an instance for better or worse – cancer can come, a loved one can die, a heart can be broken, a job can be lost, etc. Recently, as I’ve reflected upon my blessings, I’ve been worried that I’ve been doing so in a way that is centered too much on the blessings themselves and not the Giver of those blessings. I think if we focus on the blessings themselves, then when those moments come that bring unexpected sorrow and sadness to our lives, we feel even more forsaken and distraught than we would have if we had focused on the Giver of our blessings.
I am far from perfect in my offering of gratitude because I recognize that my gratitude is sometimes too situational. Recently, I’ve begun to include in my prayers the request that my heart be prepared to accept with gratitude and humility the joys and the sorrows that may come throughout my life and my family’s life. As I grow through life, I hope I’ll be able to develop the true faith and gratitude of Job when he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21
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