A friend of ours recently produced an image, based on Angry Birds, that made our family chuckle with its creativity and accuracy in expressing a truth I am a bit loathe to admit. I won’t go into the story of why our friend was moved to craft this graphic, but it certainly reflects how I feel sometimes! And while the words of ‘Angry Aho’ are supposed to be just thoughts, how many times have I said to myself, ‘Did I just think that out loud for everyone to hear?” Of course, the fact is my thoughts are often betrayed by my body language!
One of the sayings I often repeat to myself when I do not feel gratitude in my heart because of difficult situations, or because I find myself having a sense of entitlement to something I really don’t have a right to have, comes from the New Testament: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. There are times I find this very difficult, and I sympathize with those individuals, families, or peoples who have experienced loss or persecution or evil perpetrated on them (which I cannot understand because I have not experienced) for which giving thanks seems not just wrong but perverse.
And yet, while I cannot fathom the personal or corporate atrocities others have experienced, there is something to be said about making a decision to be grateful in advance of any and all circumstances that makes a difference in my life and relationships. It helps me stay humble (though others will have to judge if my character is such or not), disciplines me to root out any belief that I am ‘entitled’ to any good thing that comes my way, and gives voice and demonstration to my networks of relationships and to God that I know my connectedness and reliance on them. It helps keep me from becoming bitter, self-absorbed, angry, and judgmental. Yes, I am those some of the time and more of the time than I would like; but I am less of them more of the time than I would be if I didn’t follow that spiritual practice in lovingly obeying Jesus to be thankful in all circumstances.