Being thankful in the good times is easy. It’s when times aren’t so great that we have our work cut out for us. Gratitude is a muscle, and in order to have a heart of gratitude you have to work out that muscle consistently, in both good times and bad.
It’s been a crazy week. I want you to remember something in the midst of the chaos: there’s always something to be grateful for.
Even as America is heading into some uncharted waters and peace has yielded to riots, looting, hate, anger and vengeance --- gratitude must win the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignoring or brushing off frustrating leaders and the disturbing news of the day. I’m just so sick of pointing to the fire --- I’m ready to go grab a bucket, scoop up some water and extinguish it. I realize my bucket isn’t nearly large enough to put a dent in this flame but that’s exactly why I’m focusing all resources I possibly can on stories that give hope and inspiration. They inspire me to look for the good in a situation, and spur me to action. If that is true for me it is likely true for you as well, and that would mean millions more buckets helping to put out the fire.
We are to teach the truth and correct principles, but we can’t do that at the expense of actually living out those principles. How do we live them out? Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. What does that look like, exactly? Glad you ask. I saw a perfect example last weekend in Ferguson, Missouri with the local Tea Party there.
A couple weeks ago I spoke with Lauren Hill, a young woman with terminal brain cancer. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like to be given a death sentence at such a young age. If anyone has reason to complain, mope, and give up hope it is Lauren Hill. But she’s battling this disease with every fiber of her being. She was determined to play in a college basketball game, and the team had to adjust the schedule because they didn’t know if she’d live long enough to make it. Well, she made the game and she even scored the opening basket, which was an inspiration to millions. Many said that would be her last game, but Lauren wasn’t having any of that. Last Friday night, despite being too weak to practice for 2 weeks straight, Lauren appeared in her 2nd game and scored again. She collapsed to the floor after attempting the shot. Because of her efforts, despite suffering from constant nausea, vertigo, headaches, memory loss, inability to focus, weakness --- Lauren has raised more than $350,000 for pediatric cancer research. Simply awesome. People like Lauren stop me dead in my tracks when I’m caught in a cycle of complaining:
Who am I to complain about my situation?
Who am I to complain about the partisan divide?
Who am I to complain about anything?
Thanksgiving is the beginning of what I like to call the trilogy of holidays and I love that Thanksgiving is first up because gratitude is so crucial to well-being. The problem with complaining is it accomplishes nothing and drags everyone else around down into the muck.
There’s no denying we’re living in difficult times. But while a life of comfort, completely void of adversity sounds pleasant, there’s actually a big problem with it. Mainly, it’s a complete and total lie. No human being in all of history has ever lived a life free of adversity, pain, sorrow, regret, and to pretend otherwise is an exercise in futility. Also, adversity reveals character --- and how we handle adversity has immense power and influence on others. It can teach, inspire, and motive them. Look at people like Lauren Hill.
So this Thanksgiving I’m going to do my best to view any adversity I’m facing in a new light. I will not complain. I will be thankful for another opportunity to show other people that there’s another way, a better way, than what the world teaches.
I hope you do the same and continue to share your stories with me. They give me great hope, strength and faith.