Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gratitude

Give us strength in temptation, endurance in trial, and gratitude in prosperity.

You may recognize these words from the intercessions of Morning Prayer for Wednesday, Week IV. At first glance I found it a bit odd that prosperity was put with trial and temptation. Surely we need strengh against temptation, endurance in trial, but gratitude in prosperity? Isn't that a natural reaction?

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that gratitude is sometimes just as hard to muster as strength or endurance.

On one hand, there is of course always the temptation to want more, and thus not recognize the prosperity at hand. I think many of us fall into this. We don't realize how much of what we think of as necessities are really luxuries.

On the other hand, how often are we upset by the answer to our prayers. We are in tough financial straights and pray for that job, or that raise, or something to relieve the pressure. The job comes through, the raise occurs, the prayer is answered-but the job is not quite what we imagined; the raise brings on new responsibilities which demand more time or effort; the answered prayer isn't quite in the form we desired. So we look at the prosperity we prayed so hard for with contempt. (Oh, we are a stubborn people!) Instead of gratitude.

In fact, prosperity can take many forms. I was told this weekend that I was the richest man on earth by one of our dinners guests. He wasn't referring to our little old house here and little land. He was referring to my wife and children. This prosperity of mine-do I let it bring much joy into my life, or do I continue to worry about all the other things of life which will pass away in due time?

Gratitude: I thought I learned it at a young age-7th or 8th grade after reading "Great Expectations" by Dickens. But I have found it needs to be re-learned. At that time I learned gratitude specifically for my parents. As we get older we realize all the other blessings in our life.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who had been looking and praying for work. She is the mother of a large family whose husband can no longer work due to a physical condition. She is now working 4 part-time jobs. Certainly not what she was looking for, but .... she was happy and figured that God knew that running around like crazy from one job to the next was the best for her and fit her experience as a mother better than anything else.

Sometimes I think prosperity can be harder to handle than poverty and adversity.

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