Gratitude in a Difficult Life

Crosspoint #6, October 9, 2007

Gratitude in a Difficult Life

By Lee Harding

Good as I have it, I sometimes find it hard to be thankful. The riches, worries, and pleasures of life have a way of undermining my gratitude, and at worst, leave me wanting more than I have.

Once in awhile, the flies on the faces of kids somewhere else in the world shame me into realizing how filthy rich I am. The pictures on my wall remind me of family. I enjoy sunsets, living in a land that doesn’t know war, and in a house that keeps me secure.

Yet, keeping my heart set to be thankful is a real challenge. Life has a way of kicking us in the teeth. It’s hard. Circumstances don’t always bounce our way. People don’t always treat us fairly or forgive us. Sometimes we can’t even forgive ourselves. Accidents happen. Age is inevitable, and so is death.

So how can a Happy Thanksgiving last all year?

The first clue lies in what Thanksgiving is—a holiday. And what is a holiday? It’s a Holy Day. Thanksgiving isn’t often thought of as a holy day, but it is. On January 31st, 1957, our Parliament proclaimed "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed ... to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.”

Thanksgiving can’t exist without those other holy days--Christmas and Easter. Christmas shows God cares enough to enter into our experience and be Immanuel—“God with us.” Jesus took the hard knocks of life--temptation, job pressures, bereavement, misunderstanding, and rejection. This makes me thankful not only for what he did, but also for my own life. Like Grandma says, “If you think you have it bad, there’s always someone who has it worse.”

If God living in human form inspires gratitude, God dying in human form really does it. I remember walking out of The Passion of the Christ thinking, “I will never complain again!” (Of course, I have complained many times since.)

Life is like a rose--some sweetness, and a lot of thorns. The promise of Easter shows the sufferings of life aren’t in vain. The crucifixion reminds us that both the flower of the rose, and the thorns are sweet and life-giving. When the damnedest of Christ’s sufferings ended, a blissful resurrection followed. The same can be true for us, so there’s reason to hope.

A famous line of Scripture says, “Give thanks in all things, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It may not be for all things that we give thanks, but it is in all things. Good day or bad, tough times or easy, sunshine or rain, there’s always one good reason to be thankful, and if we look closely, many.

The holy day of Thanksgiving is over, followed by many ordinary ones. How we approach the days, whether ordinary or holy, is wholly up to us.