Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gratitude and Guilt

I've always been perplexed by the idea of appreciating what we have because there are people "less fortunate" than us. It's not that we shouldn't appreciate the things we have, but often times this "appreciation" is driven by guilt.

Surely, contentment and gratitude has to be more than that.

After all, at some point, there must be the possibility that someone will be totally destitute and not have any worse examples so that they can feel better about themselves or their situation. However, that seems so far fetched and surreal. We most likely have not or never will meet someone like that. But what if that someone were us? How could we respond?

Last week I was reading to my kids the bible story about a widow who had only enough flour and oil to make bread for her son (1 Kings 17:9-16). The drought was so great that the poor widow expected to eat that and then wait to die, as there was nothing left for her and her son. Then the prophet Elijah comes along asking for something to drink and then asks for bread. Here is a woman who didn't have enough for her household and now this man asks her for some food. She was honest and told him of her situation, and then Elijah assures her not to fear, and that God would not let the flour and oil run out until it rained again. And the flour and oil did not run out.

So, here is one example in the Bible of someone less fortunate than any of us. No husband, only flour and oil to make bread with. Can you imagine eating the same thing every day for several years? Can you imagine it being just bread and water? My dietitian brain just screams with the lack of variety and balance in their diet. But it was sufficient. However, upon reflecting on this, I realized that it's not that we ought to be thankful that we are more fortunate, but rather that we can be grateful to have a God who is with us even in dire situations like that widow's.
I still have much to learn, but the following words from the apostle Paul are starting to sink in:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13
We all have hopes and dreams for our lives, and often times our identity (even God's identity) gets wrapped up in it, rather than in the truth of His word. However, I am learning that even when we hurt and go through disappointments, God is still there with us, just as He said (Hebrews 13:5 is one example). It may seem cliché (especially when we are in the thick of things), but I can testify to the statement that "When God is all you have left, then you will see that He is all you need." And the truth in that statement will never be taken away from me (Romans 8:38-39).

And for that -- in addition to many other things -- I am grateful!
Have a blessed and guilt-free Thanksgiving!

Related Posts:
Tributo a Iehovah (Jeová)
His life in my life

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