“In everything give thanks!” Thessalonians 1, 5:18, Holy Bible
So you’ve got a job, got married, had a baby or started a business. Good for you.
Perhaps your medical test results came back clear. Wonderful news. You might just be feeling pretty dandy with your life right now. Thankful even. And so you hashtag blessed or happy as your status on social media. There is so much to be grateful for. We have all been there at one time or other in our lives.
Yet what about the not so good days? The days when Murphy’s Law is determined to wreak havoc on your life? A sudden illness, a road accident or losing your job can take your joy away. On these days, we may feel abandoned by God, misunderstood by loved ones and judged by friends.
One of my friends likes to say that some disasters have a false rock bottom. You hit what you think is rock bottom only for the floor to give way and you find yourself hurtling further down. You land with a thud thinking this is the real rock bottom. Then the floor opens up again.
While I do my best to keep up an attitude of gratitude when things are going well for me, it is the downers that get me stumped. I’m tempted to throw myself a little pity party, become irritable and generally, unhappy. Sadly, I’m tempted to stay that way until the cloudy skies clear again, which is a sheer waste of time and life.
Fortunately, there is a better, more blissful way. It is learning to give thanks in everything, even when we cannot give thanks for everything. We are not asked to be grateful for all the injustices in the world. We should not be grateful for poverty, disease, disaster or hatred.
However, as we encounter each of these we can still practise gratitude. We can be thankful things were not much worse. We can be thankful for the lessons we learnt. We can be grateful for the strength of character we developed.
Consider some of the unlikely people you have encountered who have challenged your gratitude quotient. The terminally ill patient who is grateful for the life he has lived so far. The homeless person who is grateful for a blanket and a quiet corner of the street to lay his head. The poverty stricken woman who makes a meal from wild yams and offers her thanks for something, anything, to eat.
For most of us, it takes losing, to value something and become thankful for it. It takes losing our health, relationship or job to learn that while we were busy complaining and focusing on all the lack in our lives, we still had so much good going for us.
In her book Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach writes the following about health: “We can’t buy good health, no matter how much money we have. We can purchase the best medical treatment available in the world but good health is not for sale …One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick.”
Today, realise if you have nothing else but your health, you are wealthy. If you have a healthy mind, a healthy heart, and reserves of stamina and creative energy to draw on, the world is literally lying at your feet. But health is not just the absence of sickness. Good health is vitality, vigour, high energy, emotional equilibrium, mental clarity, and physical endurance.”
Going through painful loss can make us more aware of all the blessings we still have in life. However, we can also be grateful for what these periods of testing teach us. Sometimes the lesson is to be more careful with who we trust, or to be less gullible. If you look really hard for it, there is usually something there that is good, that you can be thankful for.