Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

29 March 2009

In Pursuit of Gratitude - (5) The recipients of gratitude and what to do when it all just seems too hard

Gratitude travels in two directions - horizontally and vertically.

The horizontal expression of gratitude occurs amongst ourselves. It happens when we say thankyou to someone for a kindness shown to us, when we write a letter of thanks, when we see that someone is congratulated or acknowledged for a job well done. We are a blessing to one another when we express gratitude. Being thankful to one another is a good habit to form.

The vertical expression of thanks is when we say thankyou to God - for all the blessings of this life both tangible and intangible. If forming the habit of horizontal gratitude is a good thing, then forming the habit of vertical gratitude is even better.

But what are we to do if life is tough? How can we have an attitude of thanksgiving and experience the contentment that accompanies it when everything seems to be going wrong? Well, I heard a most wonderful explanation of what to do in this situation at a Christian Women's Conference a few years ago by Greta Gaut.*

She used the analogy of riding on a rollercoaster. She explained that we have our rollercoaster trolley wheels running on parallel tracks. The wheels on the left hand side travel along your classic rollercoaster track. It goes up and down. It twists and turns. Sometimes gently, sometimes wildly. This is the stuff of day to day and year to year life. Sometimes it's smooth (even boring!), sometimes it's exhilirating and sometimes it is gut-wrenchingly awful.

At the same time the wheels on the right hand side travel along a perfectly smooth track. This track represents the constancy of the hope of eternal life with God through the work of Jesus Christ. No matter happens in our day to day lives, for those who believe that Jesus is their Lord and Saviour, there is the hope, peace and constancy found in the prospect of eternal life with God. And therefore, even if there seems little to be thankful for in day to day life - the stuff of the left hand track - there is always the constancy of the right hand track for which to be grateful. Immensely grateful.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" It's that verse from my sidebar again. It doesn't mean that I have to be artificially happy if my life's circumstances are not good at the time. But no matter what happens, I can always rejoice in the Lord because of the hope I have in Him now and into the future for all eternity. Then, even in times of turmoil, I will know the peace of God which transcends all understanding. And for that I can be grateful.

And in the meantime, the correctives listed in the previous post help me not to get sucked into the vortex of unnecessary or unwarranted grizzling and misery.

* If you click on the link at Greta's name you will find her three magnificent talks on Philippians - and you may even find some others worth putting on your iPod as well!!

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