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What If You're Not Thankful?

Written by Renée Miller

Sometimes life is harsh and unyielding.  It doesn’t need to be some major trauma that causes me to shift my focus from thankfulness to complaining.  It can be something as trivial as dropping a new bag of cat food on the ground and having the bag break, strewing the contents all over the pavement.  In that moment, I am not thankful.  I’m put out, annoyed, and irritated that I have to put up with the untimely interruption in my plans.

Other times I find I’m not thankful because there doesn’t seem to be anything to be thankful for.  Again, it’s not necessarily a tragic event that causes this reaction.  It may be something as simple as being too tied to a daily routine.  I’m spiritually asleep to the nudges and nuances that break into the day.  In my sleepiness, I just move along the same way day after day.  I don’t think to be thankful because I'm not awake to my life in the moment.

However, sometimes it is something major that keeps me from being thankful.  Oh, I know that there’s grace to be found on the other side of every drama, but what about when I’m in the midst of the drama?  What about when I’m all alone, when the darkness inside is descending, when I’m sinking in grief, when my purpose seems lost, when I’ve had an accident, when I’m sick, when the world has turned against me, when depression has me tumbling down a black hole?  Thankfulness is as far away as the night stars when I’m patently focused on the hard problems of my life.

Some disciples once asked the Muslim mystic Rabia how to develop the virtue of patience.  Her response was disarming and, at first, disappointing to the disciples.  She merely said, “Stop complaining.” They had hoped for something more important, more spiritual, more meaningful.  Finally, however, they saw that there was no point talking about patience until they stopped complaining. All they needed to do was stop, the next time they felt inclined to complain.

I hear Rabia’s words in my own soul, and realize that when I’m complaining, there’s little opportunity or desire for me to be thankful.  If I would simply stop the next time I want to complain, and look instead for something to be grateful for, I might find my heart thumping with thankfulness. 

This is the first of 2011 and I find myself so grateful that in 2008 people blogged their thoughts on graditude.
Posted by: June Averyt   1/3/2011 9:53:06 PM

Gratitude is understanding the gifts we have been given.TO know that God loves us.
Posted by: veronica   3/3/2010 3:43:39 PM

Last December I was told by a neurologist that I have ALS. Of course, this caused a spiritual struggle in many ways, but even when I received enough help to believe that God still loved me, I simply found it impossible to make genuine prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Then I heard a homily by the then Episcopal bishop of Maine, Chilton Knudsen. She told us to praise and thank God even when we did not feel like it, and she assured us that our praise and thanksgiving would become sincere, genuine, and deeply felt. The grace of the Holy Spirit would accomplish this. Well, she was right. Sometimes I need a reminder, and your spiritual advice has done this.
Posted by: Eric   12/22/2008 12:22:01 AM

Renee: Thank you for these encouraging words. I'm learning that gratitude is a choice. I can choose to be thankful even when I don't feel thankful. I can choose to find something to thank God for in the midst of the tough times. When I choose to be grateful, I have a different experience. The tough times don't seem so difficult. I experience peace in the midst of the challenges. Gratitude is its own reward. Andrea
Posted by:    11/30/2008 5:52:01 PM

Why is it that good things happen to not so good people and bad things happen to not so bad people'' Why do the rich keep getting richer (not complaining, just wondering ) and the poor just keep getting poorer' Why would God treat some people with more love than others'
Posted by: Sarah   11/30/2008 2:57:01 PM

More often said than done,when in the pits of despair and no one is there to cheer you and make you see that there is something to be thankful for.Small though it may be.Life is full of little surprises if we only see, that which is right in front of you.
Posted by: patti kalambakal   11/26/2008 6:07:01 PM

Thanks for posting prayer when you are not grateful. Life can be dissapointing and at times it is difficult
Posted by: zilverb   11/26/2008 3:42:02 PM

Gratitude is the fertile ground for patience to quietly grow. Beautifully put Renee. Thank You.
Posted by: Sarah Giorno   11/24/2008 7:27:01 AM

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