I have a confession to make.
Probably like many in this chaotic and uncertain world, I am finding it difficult to be grateful.
And shouldn’t I be grateful? After all, anyone who has been in ministry, or a churchgoer for any length of time, knows verses like I Thessalonians 5:18 “ In everything give thanks . . .” or Psalm 118:1 “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
So why am I feeling ungrateful?
The unremarkable answer is – I’m not sure. Perhaps it is the chaos in the world. Maybe it is Covid 19. It could be the financial pressures most of us are feeling. Or, maybe I’ve just been isolated for too long?
I’m sure that if I surveyed people there might a good number of people saying “Amen” to my feelings of ingratitude. And, I suspect there might also be a good number of people, that like me, are not exactly sure why they feel ungrateful. We live in a land, despite all the issues and troubles, that is still free, a land of opportunity, a country of great riches, innovations, and luxuries of which many around the world can only dream. This doesn’t obviate the fact that we all acknowledge that there are objective reasons for why we may be feeling a level of cheerlessness and dissatisfaction. However, I suspect it doesn’t answer for the entire ethos of people right now.
As I pondered my attitude of not being adequately grateful for all I have, I found myself chastising myself and telling myself to just stop it. Find things to be thankful for.
So, as I took my morning jog with the dogs, I tried looking at the green that had battled its way back to life amidst the blackened monuments of the Carr Fire. I gazed at the clear blue sky and breathed in the non-virus contaminated air.
And then it struck me. Perhaps I had focused so much on the media, health reports, shut downs, conversations around me, that I had allowed my mind to think on those things – all the negatives. The familiar verse of Philippians 4:8 came to mind:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Could I solve all the world problems? No. Could I control the virus? No. Could I change the health challenges loved ones are facing, or somehow magically restore the economy? Could I make people more kind and loving toward one another? Again, a resounding no.
I reflected on a truth with which most of us would probably agree – this world is a morally broken pain machine. (Thank you Bill for this insightful description.) I cannot fix it. I can do my part, and should, but I alone cannot fix it. I truly believe only God can fix this world. Will all pain disappear? All loneliness? Isolation? Depression? Evil? Disruption? Uncertainty? Fear? Unfortunately, not. This will not happen until our Lord Jesus returns and all will be put to right.
So, what could I do?
One small thing I decided to do was post, in a place where I could easily see it multiple times a day, a list of things for which to be grateful. I want my mind to focus on pure, lovely and excellent things. I cannot control the world around me. But I can control my thoughts. I can determine that I will take my focus off of those things that make me ungrateful and focus instead on things for which I am grateful.
What is on my list? Here are my first five:
- My marriage and that I have a husband who loves me even when unlovely.
- My home and that we can still somehow pay the mortgage.
- The health of my kids.
- That I can swim in a pool to escape the Redding heat.
- That the peach trees produced few, but truly delicious peaches this year.
I didn’t try to make it all “spiritual” and what I thought would impress people. I simply started with a short list of things to be grateful for. Occasionally, I add another item, but never out of obligation. I only add things that I can say in my heart I am truly thankful for.
Maybe you can only think of one thing right now. Start there. Focus, think, on that one good and excellent thing. You might be surprised how just one item of thankfulness leads to a more grateful spirit and mind.
I can’t solve every problem. I face sadness and heartbreak. I am discouraged and weary. But, maybe I can, even for this minute, hour, day, choose to be grateful for the items on my little list.
Ready to make your own list? It just takes one thing to get started with a renewing of your mind. Just one.