Volume 34, No. 22
Being Grateful When Life is Exhausting
I have an ever-changing written to-do list on my desk in my home office. And I look at this list often as I try to keep up with all of the church tasks I have to do in between homeschooling our daughters, taking our newborn to doctor appointments, running errands, and other household chores. One afternoon, I was away from my desk for a couple of hours holding my newborn son, Ford. When I returned to my desk to finish up some work, I looked down at one of my church to-do lists – pray for a congregant, write an article, finish sermon. And there in the margin, written in the handwriting of my oldest child, was a note she had snuck onto my busy to-do list, a list that felt overwhelming and long. There in the margin was the sentence, “I love you, Dad.”
We are overwhelmed, distracted, and exhausted. I’m not sure it is very easy for us to think about gratefulness. And since gratitude hasn’t been on my to-do list, I opened my Bible and flipped over to the words of the apostle Paul who struggled, like we are struggling today. “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
The Apostle Paul wrote these words in about 55 CE. You see, the Corinthian church was going through a lot of division, disagreement, and polarization. Sounds familiar, right? But they found a way to work it out, to get through it together. And when they did, they began working for the common good. They began to be grateful for their lives in the faith and grateful for one another. And when they became grateful, they became generous. The apostle Paul talked about the generous churches in the region of Macedonia, largely foreign Christians of different cultures, who gave to their Christian counterparts of Jewish heritage in Jerusalem. Paul exhorted these Corinthian believers to make their own donations to the good work happening there. And, when people started to give, two things happened: They gave generously beyond their financial abilities and these people of faith gave their money across racial and national lines. That is the kind of generosity and gratitude I hope we can begin to experience in our nation and our world this holiday season.
What is your gratitude story? It is my hope that we don’t have to force it, or strain for it, or fake it. Maybe our gratitude story is to simply look in the margins of our lives and affirm the places of hope that remain outside of our busy to-do lists, our deep depression, and our overwhelming exhaustion. I wonder what it would be like if we looked in the margins of our lives, this day, to where God has written on our hearts and our spirits, “I love you…”