I have a paying job where I help people solve their technical problems several times a day. Most of the people I work with are kind, fun, and fairly appreciative of what I do for them. Nobody in our office wants to work with the people who are demanding, rude, and take us for granted. While I don’t like to leave people hanging, I have found that I can frequently consider an issue closed when I don’t hear from the people I’m helping, since it’s very rare that people will call me to tell me that everything is great. When I served on staff in churches, the work was often hard, the hours long, and there were times that the job was a real challenge. Sometimes, it seemed like there were whole groups of people who had nothing better to do than find ways to make my life harder, and they were really good at it. Anyhow, in the midst of all that, I kept a special file folder, where I put every piece of nice mail; every “out of season” card that wished me well; copies of every nice, unsolicited email; and every other piece of spontaneous ad unexpected gratitude and encouragement I ever received. It kept me going during the toughest times in ministry, so I carried it from church to church for almost two decades.
There seem to be a lot of people out there these days who are giving up on faith. For some, they have been hurt by other “believers” who have used God to justify any manner of behavior that would make Jesus weep with shame, and they have had enough of religion. For others they are products of an environment where faith is devalued, not encouraged, or generally not “helpful.” Still others, give up because they had some unmet expectation of something that God would do for them. “if there is a God, why did _________ happen/not happen?”
Somehow, in our efforts to live our lives and do all the things that we do, we often forget the simple fact that our world depends on gratitude. The lives of everyone who we encounter, as well as our own lives, can become dull and empty without it. More than a “social lubricant” that helps us get along with each other, gratitude is an absolute necessity that makes our entire world work. There are countless people in your life who have done many things for you that were never noticed and/or appreciated. I think that the term for this is “being taken for granted.” We’ve already passed through a season of thanksgiving, and now we’re celebrating the coming of nothing less than a light for an otherwise dark world. We’re all caught up in things like celebrating things the “right” way; attending the “right” events; giving or receiving the “right” gifts; or spending time with the “right” people.
Are we also caught up in an attitude that shows appreciation for what we are given in this season?