- A Thankful Life

What If You're Not Thankful

Written By Renée Miller

Sometimes life is harsh and unyielding.  It doesn’t need to be some major trauma that causes me to shift my focus from thankfulness to complaining.  It can be something as trivial as dropping a new bag of cat food on the ground and having the bag break, strewing the contents all over the pavement.  In that moment, I am not thankful.  I’m put out, annoyed, and irritated that I have to put up with the untimely interruption in my plans.

Other times I find I’m not thankful because there doesn’t seem to be anything to be thankful for.  Again, it’s not necessarily a tragic event that causes this reaction.  It may be something as simple as being too tied to a daily routine.  I’m spiritually asleep to the nudges and nuances that break into the day.  In my sleepiness, I just move along the same way day after day.  I don’t think to be thankful because I'm not awake to my life in the moment.

However, sometimes it is something major that keeps me from being thankful.  Oh, I know that there’s grace to be found on the other side of every drama, but what about when I’m in the midst of the drama?  What about when I’m all alone, when the darkness inside is descending, when I’m sinking in grief, when my purpose seems lost, when I’ve had an accident, when I’m sick, when the world has turned against me, when depression has me tumbling down a black hole?  Thankfulness is as far away as the night stars when I’m patently focused on the hard problems of my life.

Some disciples once asked the Muslim mystic Rabia how to develop the virtue of patience.  Her response was disarming and, at first, disappointing to the disciples.  She merely said, “Stop complaining.” They had hoped for something more important, more spiritual, more meaningful.  Finally, however, they saw that there was no point talking about patience until they stopped complaining. All they needed to do was stop, the next time they felt inclined to complain.

I hear Rabia’s words in my own soul, and realize that when I’m complaining, there’s little opportunity or desire for me to be thankful.  If I would simply stop the next time I want to complain, and look instead for something to be grateful for, I might find my heart thumping with thankfulness.