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Gratitude


In every thing give thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thes 5:18

There is a true story about the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman. He was giving a concert one evening in New York. Since childhood, he had been stricken with polio. To get on stage was no small feat for him. He wore braces on both legs and walked with two crutches. Every step upstage was both careful and painful.

The audience applauded upon seeing Perlman on stage. They waited patiently and respectfully as he made his way slowly across the stage. When he reached his stage position, he sat upon a chair placed therein. He got himself ready to play his instrument. After which, he signaled to the conductor and began to play.

When he had finished the first few bars of the piece of music, one of his violin strings snapped. As this was just the beginning of the song, he could have stopped to replace the string or the whole violin before starting all over. But he did not. He waited a moment, and signaled to the conductor to continue from where they had left off.

Perlman had only three strings to play his soloist part. As he knew his instrument well, he was able to use the adjoining strings to play similar notes on the score. But when that was not possible, he rearranged and played new music on the spot so that all would still hold together as one masterpiece.

He played with great passion and proficiency. Spontaneously rearranging the symphony, he captivated the hearts of those who heard the heavenly music that night. When he finally rested his bow, the bewildered audience was totally stunned for a few seconds. They had witnessed a miracle. What they just saw was unbelievable! There was an awesome pause of sweet silence. Before long, joy broke out! All of them gave him a standing ovation. Their acclamation and applause were thundering!

Perlman then raised his bow to signal for silence before he said these inspiring words, "Sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much beautiful music you can still make with what you have left."

That really makes us wonder: Was he speaking of his broken violin strings or his crippled body?

This truth is for both artists and non-artists. We are all lacking in something. But the challenging question is this: Do we have this same attitude of making something beautiful out of what we do have, incomplete as they may be now?

The Hebrew word for gratitude is hikarat hatov. It means "recognizing the good". Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already ours:

  • If we lose our jobs, we still have our families and health.
  • If our legs fail, we still have our hands.
  • If we break a violin string, we still have three more.
  • If all the doors are closed, we still have some windows.

All of us have something to be grateful for. When we open up our hearts to be grateful and thankful, we will begin to see the world in a very different light. When we let go of our demands of what others should be or do, we find ourselves being more gracious and grateful. We can then see clearly and correctly how much good there is in our own lives and in the lives of others around us.

Gratitude affirms. Whatever we are lacking will be still there till our mortal bodies put on immortality. Being grateful helps us to take our eyes off ourselves and see God and others! But the sad truth is that most of us tend to focus on the deficiencies in our lives that we barely perceive the good that counterbalances them. There is no limit to what we do not have. If we put our focus on them, our lives will inevitably be filled with endless dissatisfaction. When our hearts are not filled with gratitude towards the goodness of God and others, nothing else in the world can satisfy us!

It is a waste of energy to focus on what we have not. And the key to true happiness or blessedness is to take pleasure in what we already have. We are living in a world of go-getters! Happiness is commonly perceived as the outcome of what we can achieve and acquire.

  • My life would improve if I have a new car.
  • My life would improve if I have a better job.
  • My life would improve if I have a new spouse.
  • My life would improve if I have a new face or body.

But when we get hold of something, we need something else. Our happiness has very short life spans. Always chasing after the wind.

In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus cleansed and healed ten lepers. But only one returned to thank Him. Where were the other nine? Had they not also experienced miracles and healings? Or were they simply unthankful and ungrateful? The one who returned to give thanks to Jesus was made whole not only in his body but also in his spirit!

Happiness is not a happening. Happiness is a state of mind. We can have everything in the world and still be miserable. On the other hand, we can have relatively little, and yet be happy, having boundless love and unspeakable joy!

When we are sincerely grateful, we will give thanks in everything whether on thrilling mountaintops or in depressing valleys! When gratitude is firmly established in our hearts, we are made right and whole. Gratitude cannot coexist with arrogance, resentment and selfishness. Gratitude resides with love, joy and peace.

After watching the well-acclaimed Oscar award-winning Iranian film "Children Of Heaven", I was grateful for having shoes on my feet. Someone commented: "Whenever I replace a pair of worn out shoes, I would neatly wrap up the old ones in newspapers before placing them in the trash. How can I simply toss away such a faithful pair of shoes that have served me so well these past years?"

Gratitude opens our hearts to God and other people. Thankfulness springs out from a grateful heart. This aspect of praise gives thanks to God for what He have done for us. In every thing we give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us. This is required of all believers, regardless of circumstances and feelings.

  • Thank God for giving us life.
  • Thank God for a brand new day.
  • Thank God that we can see.
  • Thank God that we can use our hands and feet.
  • Thank God that we can think.
  • Thank God for the food and the drink.
  • Thank God for the sun, moon and stars.
  • Thank God for the skies, seas, hills and trees.
  • Thank God for the birds, fishes, insects and animals.
  • Thank God for everything!

When we do so, heaven and earth meets! The imperfect violin will make beautiful music with the touch of the Master's hand. We in Him become perfected and complete! Not lacking! The Lord is my Shepherd! My Everything!

Sources:
http://www.aish.com/spirituality/growth/The_Path_of_the_Soul_3_Gratitude.asp
http://www.aish.com/spirituality/foundations/The_Secret_of_Happiness.asp