“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Many years ago, there was a movie called “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. One aspect of the film which stuck in my memory is the Greek parents’ fondness for Windex as a cure-all for just about anything and everything. The non-Greek fellow who eventually marries his Greek sweetheart can’t understand why the family keeps telling him to put Windex on everything. In the end, he eventually accepts their “prescription”, tries it and – wonder of wonders – it works!
Gratitude is like that in our lives. We read St Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all circumstances”. We give mental assent, but we don’t actually comprehend the seriousness of that call, and so we fail to put it into practice in our lives. We’re like the fellow in the movie, the “outsider” to these odd family ways, unwilling to try it until the situation is desperate.
Back in the Garden of Eden, the serpent (Satan) tempted our first parents to doubt God’s goodness by implying that God was withholding something good from them. He lied about the consequences of their rebellion against God, and urged them to prefer their own judgement to God’s. As we know, disaster resulted: gone was the sweet intimacy they had had with their Creator; lost was the original wholeness and harmony they had possessed; and almost immediately began all the disorders that eventually led to their physical deaths. Because they failed to trust God’s goodness, they failed to be grateful for the blessed Paradise he had so generously given. And so they lost it all.
I think gratitude is the “windex” for all our ills, for it is entirely connected with trust in God’s goodness. If I live gratefully – setting my will to cultivate it, exercising the “muscle” of it in order to grow stronger in the habit of it – I affirm my trust in God and actually deepen it. Eventually, it really gets written deeply on my heart. I can chafe and complain about what I’m going through, but if I instead acknowledge that I don’t have God’s wisdom or his divine perspective, I can choose instead to relinquish my own judgement about my situation and surrender to his ways.
I can’t do this without having Calvary in mind. If I remember that Jesus went to extreme lengths to demonstrate his love for me, how can I complain about anything that such Love allows in my life? What more could he have given? What more could he have done? When I thus remind myself, I realize that everything in my life is pure gift: my life, my very breath each moment.
Like any good, wise and loving parent, my Father knows the greater good that can come from the difficulties he is allowing in my life. He’s doing a more deeply important work in the midst of the suffering, a work that I am entirely blind to, a work born from his infinite wisdom and love for me. I can practice trusting him, though, thanking him in all circumstances, and praying constantly. I know he will help me, for this is his loving will for me. Such gratitude won’t eliminate the suffering, but it will remind me of how much I am loved, and how present he is to me in the midst of the difficulties, and that indeed can “cure” me.