When I was younger (not that I’m old now, thank you), I had an issue with being ungrateful.
Every parent out there probably just said “amen”.
When you’re young, you don’t know how much you don’t know. All you can see is your present problems. It rarely occurs to us that others have it worse; we just don’t see it. I often struggle with the section of my heart that just plaintively shouts “NO! I’m tired of pat, cliched solutions. Just fix this, God!” whenever hardship shows up. May God have mercy on that foolish section.
But reaching the age of 33 has shrunk that voice. Time has given me the chance to see more suffering. It’s devious, unfair, and creative, just how badly the world can go wrong for people. And it makes me thankful.
I’m seeing our clients’ bodies break down from mesothelioma, paralysis, mood disorders – even diabetes induced from head injuries in war (I didn’t even know that could happen!). Not to mention the six-figure medical bills they rack up, ensuring debt for their children no matter how well they settle with the insurance company. It leaves me grateful that I can breathe, run, even walk, or pay for something – and noticing each time I do. Noticing. I thought being grateful for my sight and my hearing was for grandparents, older folks who had ascended to some higher plane of earthly existence that I couldn’t possibly understand. Nope – it’s for me, too.
Which is good, because I am starting, almost imperceptibly, to lose my hearing.
I’m seeing citizens of other nations in turmoil as my friends and I go forth on missions. There was a one-in-twenty chance that I would be born an American. That’s staggering. I find myself giving thanks more each day – even as it becomes readily apparent that some poor folks in developing nations have actually learned to be happier than I am!
I’m seeing friends and acquaintances lose their small children to disease. So many of these heartrending stories on my Facebook feed; another one just this week. Years of prayer answered with a no. I find myself grateful that my mother was not asked to walk through that valley, even as I steel myself against the possibility that I might yet have to, someday.
But as time goes on, I find my thankfulness increasingly centering around one blessing in particular.
What point would there be in any answer to prayer if I had not been chosen by God to be saved?
I remember thinking about a month ago – I could be the richest, most popular and influential guy around, married to a gorgeous woman with a bunch of smart, healthy kids, and none of it would matter without Christ. None of it. I’d always be wanting more in this life; nothing would be enough. And once this life were over, I’d have less. Far less.
And then God goes, That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all.
What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
It’s always fun when the wisdom God has been relentlessly crowbarring into your brain over the years finally falls into place.
This sounds morbid, but if you’re having trouble finding things to be grateful for, just wait. Life will eventually show you what they are. This is not an excuse to be ungrateful as youngsters, but it’s just kind of how it works.
When those later days arrive, enjoy every breath, every day with your loved ones, every good time that comes. They are gifts from God. Not everyone around you is enjoying them (though, of course, they are enjoying things that you aren’t, too). Ask God to bring you fully into each moment, make you completely present, suck up every crumb of joy that he’s offering. Let nothing be stolen.
Let us be thankful.