Gratitude is a mainstay of joy. How can you be truly satisfied and content if you don’t recognize the gifts in the small, everyday blessings of life? Lack of thankfulness leaves you disgruntled and resentful as you look past the good things in your own life at the abundance you recognize in your neighbor’s life. (Comparison is also a block to joy, but that’s not today’s lesson!)
Being grateful for the small graces in life is always important but the coronavirus pandemic has made it paramount to our survival. On Day 38 of 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, Tommy Newberry states that most of us are so complacent about our lives that it takes the news of someone else’s accident or tragedy to make us realize how grateful we are for our health and safety. Writing in 2012, Newberry laments that most of us have already forgotten the jolt of gratitude we got from the incidents of 9/11. Ironically, we are in another season that reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for when so many others are suffering more.
Newberry says this is routine gratitude. It feels sincere at the time, but it doesn’t penetrate the heart. We need exceptional gratitude. Exceptional gratitude he defines as “intentional, proactive, extraordinary, and consistent with the 4:8 Principle.” The 4:8 Principle is central to the author’s philosophy and refers to the admonition in Philippians 4:8 to focus on the best in every person and circumstance. He goes on to explain that it “refers to acts of thankfulness unprompted by someone else’s tragedy, pain, or misfortune.”
In normal times, we take things for granted, unaware that life can end in a heartbeat. We’re blissfully ignorant of the dangers that are present all around us. There will always be another day. Another chance. That is a luxury we don’t have right now. Right now, touching a doorknob and scratching your nose can be a lethal act. That job with the good company that keeps you going pay-check to pay-check could end tomorrow, if it didn’t end yesterday. Tornados in the South last weekend were a reminder that everything can be blown away in a moment and even home is not secure.
I don’t say these things to add to your fears, but to remind myself and you that we need to cherish all the things we hold dear. When we are grateful for our spouses, our children, our families and our friends, we don’t allow petty annoyances to breakdown relationship. We are sure to let them know every day how much they mean to us. We eat the food we have with appreciation. We are glad for our home, no matter how modest because, how can you shelter-in-place if you have no place?
Newberry, focuses on Philippians 4:8, but I have always felt that it is just a part of Paul’s message. His plan for joy starts in verse 6 and continues through 8:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)
Today’s assignment doesn’t come from Newberry, but from me: Say your prayers. Thank God for all the good things in your life. Kiss your housemates, reach out in whatever way you can to the others that you love. Remember that life is still very, very good!