Gratitude provides the counter to intense pressure from life. It helps us not be crushed. When we stop to see what we have, it changes the object of our eyes. We feel how our lives have been added to, rather than feeling our life is full of holes, which should be plugged by something or someone.
I remember how much I enjoy watching videos of family gatherings! I can feel any tension in my shoulders relax. A coffee mug from the Roasterie in Kansas City is a personal example. Inexplicably by shoulders relax and a soft glow is perceived in my soul each time I hold it between my hands watching the sun rise or enjoy the conversation of friends. I searched for several years for a mug with a thick wall to keep the coffee hot for a longer period of time than most thin walled coffee cups can do. The feel of porcelain on the lips enhances the flavor. It is just the right size for a small French Press. Gratitude for the mug, its contents, and the ambiance it brings makes the experience of life a little better.
Putting to death the constant desire for more enables the ability to live in the moment and rejoice in what I have. On the other hand, greed, the constant desire for more, creates a death valley desert which pulls the life from the poor pilgrim sojourning through. Evelyn Underhill in “The Spiritual Life” discourses about how much of life is spent “conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual—even on the religious—plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest”. The painful feeling of life pressing in is often self-inflicted.
Choices make the difference. Two people are in the same accident and severely wounded. They did not choose to be in the accident. It happened to them. But one of them chose to live the experience in bitterness, the other in gratitude. Life presses in on the first, while the latter lets go of the past, celebrates remembered blessings, and looks forward to wringing every drop of joy tomorrow holds. The choice of gratitude for what is received rather than bitterness in what was not obtained makes the difference.
The Apostle Paul traded in a position of prominence for one of scorn. He walked away from a life filled with creature comforts into a world filled with prisons, scorn, and lynch mobs. He wrote, however, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Paul’s attitude was possible because he chose to focus on what he had; a saving friendship with Jesus Christ. He experienced the results of walking through life with Jesus who warmed even his darkest moments. Periods of doubt were extinguished through the Holy Spirit’s guarantee of eternal life. Perhaps Paul’s thick walled mug filled with a full-bodied coffee was the visualization of heaven where it is impossible to imagine fully the beauty, the joy, and absence of sorrow that awaits.
What is pressing in on you? Think of all you have to be thankful for. Focus on gratitude rather than grumbling though you may have every reason to feel depressed. Gratitude causes the soul to soar!