last night at our 'small group' we discussed the concept of gratitude. one of the participants posed a very poignant question that made me think about how grateful i really am. the gist of the question was how can we know if we are truly grateful in the absence of need? we live in a very affluent society. i am not talking affluent in the sense that we are rolling in the dough. but affluent in that we don't have practical knowledge of true need. need for food, shelter, clothing. the basics. in fact, we have more than we need and we are the most wasteful nation in the world. we (in our home) don't have the extras (iPhones, cable, dvr, whatever...) but we do have food in abundance and can just go the store in our 2nd car anytime we want and pick from our choice of coffee shops. so, how do we know if we are truly grateful?
the answers to this question by other members of our group were varied. one person said that gratitude isn't all about the big stuff. it can be found in the small day to day occurrences that can be mistakenly attributed to our own efforts instead of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
or is gratitude about being content with our current situation? not having a sense of entitlement when we go to a restaurant or emergency room and expect to be served immediately because of who we are.
for myself, i think that my gratitude has grown since my journey as a christian began almost 15 years ago. in 1999 i was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. i was 24. i was scared to death. i had just completed 3 years on an oncology inpatient unit as an RN and had seen many young women come through with melanoma that had very short, painful lives. i was very new to my faith and struggled with why God would have me go through cancer. was i living my life so horribly wrong that He needed to chase me down with cancer to get my attention? maybe. after my surgery to remove the diseased spot i fell into a life of crippling fear. fear that God would have to shake my world up again to get my attention. not scriptural at all! in fact, it was just a lot of lies from the Deceiver about how i was to live my life. i have taken a lot of comfort from the scripture passage about the blind man in John 9. the mad was blind from birth and the disciples wanted to know whose sin had fallen on the man to cause him to be blind (falling in line with the belief that the sins of the parents would be visited on the generations to come). Jesus answered , "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9.3)" wow. so, my cancer was not because i was living a sinful life, but so that God might be glorified. now instead of living in fear, i could live in gratitude that i had been given an opportunity to live through cancer and share how Jesus is my Savior.
can we ever truly know gratitude if we don't know need or want? i am not sure. i know that i can show God i am grateful by loving Him and obeying His commands. is this perfected in my life...ummm, NO! but one day, i will be complete, because He has promised it to be so. for now, i will praise Him for His goodness, even in the midst of crisis or less than desirable circumstances. even if we lose everything, i have lost nothing, because i have a relationship with the God who created the Universe and is Sovereign over every little detail.
i had the opportunity to memorize the 23rd psalm with my oldest son this past week. i highly encourage it. it is full of promises and peace that might otherwise have escaped me. my favorite part of the psalm? aside from all of it?
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life and I willl dwell in the House of the Lord...forever.