Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why Can’t You Just Be Grateful?

That’s a very good question!  One I have struggled with quite a bit.  When someone (usually my husband) asks me this very same thing, I feel even more overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged that I can never seem to just do it: be grateful without any other sentiments muddying the waters. 
Kevin has developed an uncanny ability to speak out loud what I most fear and am worried about. When he does this, I often feel that he’s also asking what’s wrong with you and why can’t you figure this thing out.  Part of the issue is that I have a tendency to think others are upset with me and/or blaming me for whatever problems exist even when they are simply stating the issue or conflict is there. 
As you can imagine, my response to Kevin pinpointing what’s bothering me and even the implications of inquiring as to why I haven’t made sense of it, yet, more often makes me exasperated than grateful that someone gets what I’m fretting over.    

So Many Blessings

I know I have a number of blessings for which to be grateful.  I think of them and thank God for them regularly.  I’m usually pretty good about saying thank you to people.  For example, I always thank Kevin each and every time he does the grocery shopping, makes dinner, does the laundry, washes the dishes, or does any of the daily grind sorts of tasks.  He thanks me each time for taking care of the same sort of necessary chores. 
A while ago I wrote a post called Cop an Attitude of Gratitude because appreciation is so important and powerful.  When I hear, see, and read about the devastation in the Philippines and/or the poverty nearby, I feel embarrassed that I am ever anything but grateful.  The question returns to me time and again: why can’t you just be grateful for having clean water, food, shelter, clothes, people who love you and whom you love, faith in God, and a desire to do His Will…?  There’s a part of me that says if I feel any longing, sense of something missing, sorrow or loss, that I’m being an ungrateful wretch when I have so much that others are literally dying because they’re without.

Running on Empty

I’m reminded of the last few years of my dad’s life, when his health declined rapidly.  Suddenly, he needed help with things.  It got to the point at which it was too exhausting for him to do his own grocery shopping, so I’d usually take care of it.  Just walking around his little apartment, he’d get out of breath, though, he wore oxygen all the time. 

Sometimes when I’d come home feeling tired after running errands for him, I felt guilty.  I wanted to feel only privileged and grateful to have that time with him and be able to do things for him he could no longer take care of himself, but I couldn’t always manage to keep that attitude of gratitude.
When worn down and exhausted from other things Kevin and I were dealing with in addition to having two family members in hospice at the same time, I would get bogged down by all that I wasn’t doing or ways I was lacking.  It’s so easy to focus on the negatives when fatigue sets in.  Other days, I would rejoice and be glad for blessings I had often taken for granted: the ability to breathe without difficulty, to walk, run errands, help those suffering to smile and laugh, and affirm the Presence of God in others.

We're Only Human

Maybe it just means that we’re still human when we feel hurt, pain, and sorrow mixed in with our gratitude and/or perhaps it indicates that we aren’t as close to the Lord as we could be.  I don’t know.  I know some very strong, courageous, grateful people who have felt discouraged, downtrodden, and frustrated.  What if it’s not an either/or but a both/and?   We can be both grateful for what we do have and still have a tug in our heart for an area of our lives that is missing, lost, or painful. 
Longings and hopes can often be part of God nudging us towards other blessings He wants to give us or make more obvious in our lives.  It actually makes sense that we continue to want more in this life, because we aren’t really whole and one with God until we enter into eternal life.  There’s a big difference between greed and an awareness from the Holy Spirit of an area in our lives where we aren’t fulfilled.  Part of gratitude, I believe, is being generous with what we have.  No matter what happens, we always have something to offer others, even when we feel that we are at our lowest and most useless.  Fortunately, God can and often does work in and through people who are certain they have nothing left to give. 

Thank God in Advance

A dear family friend of ours from Kenya who came here with her children many years ago is one person who really impressed upon me the importance of thanking God in advance for what we have asked Him to do in our lives. 

I admire a faith so strong and sure of the Lord it hopes when it seems all reason for hope has gone.  I still marvel at the ways the Lord has walked in and through this powerful prayer warrior to demonstrate that hope in Jesus Christ is never a mistake.  Nothing is impossible with God.  Nothing at all.
In the midst of the deepest desires and most fervent longings God places on our hearts and guides us to work and hope for, we can be grateful for the prayers, blessings, and graces He gives us this day.  Though knowing we are lacking, we can share what we do have with open arms and hearts, confident that the Lord loves and rewards a cheerful giver.
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