All of us who are readers of The Word Among Us have different situations going on in our lives. Some of us may feel blessed and supported by our children or grandchildren. Others among us may feel lonely and perhaps forgotten. Some of us are healthy, young, and strong, while others are struggling with the effects of growing old. We span different countries, different ages, and different languages. We are married, single, lay, religious, and ordained. We cover such a broad spectrum! But one thing is true for each of us: we have so much to be grateful for.
This might sound odd, especially if you are going through a difficult trial. “What do I have to be grateful for? My son just got divorced and left the Church.” “Grateful? Even though I lost my best friend to the coronavirus?” These reactions, as well as many like them, are only natural. It’s like telling the homeless beggar to be grateful that it isn’t raining right now, despite the fact that a major hurricane is on the horizon. Thanking God for “the little things” can sound fine until one of “the big things” goes wrong and overshadows everything else.
Still, St. Paul says, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Paul is telling us that thanksgiving is something we do, not just something we feel. In other words, we can decide to thank God even when we don’t feel particularly grateful. St. Thomas Aquinas said something similar when he taught that gratitude is a matter of justice—of giving God his due. God still loves us and is close to us even when we can’t pay the bills. He still promises to be with us even when an illness confines us to bed. He still showers us with his compassion and mercy even when we have sinned and are now reaping the fruit of our choices. So of course he deserves our thanks.
Imagine a Grateful World. Like everyone else, I can struggle with gratitude. Not everything in my life has turned out the way I had hoped. My wife, Katie, and I have had our fair share of suffering, and there have been times when I have wanted to rail at God instead of thanking him. But when I take the “illogical” step of thanking the Lord for his goodness and love, my heart softens. I feel closer to him and become more convinced that he is walking with me and will never abandon me. I remember that no matter what happens to me, I am still a child of God. Jesus has opened heaven for me and anyone who tries to follow him. When I remember all of this, I end up echoing the words of the hymn “How Can I Keep from Singing?”
Can you imagine what life would be like if we lived in a constant state of gratitude for God’s blessings and faithfulness? This is the question that we want to look at in this month’s issue. I encourage you to read our three opening articles slowly and prayerfully. Ask the Lord to give you a grateful heart this month. Write down all of the reasons you have to thank him. Then let him lift up your heart.