St. John Climacus, a Saying…

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Being Thankful

In spite of all of life’s challenges and hardship, we should always strive to be thankful, to foster a state of gratitude for the blessings we do enjoy. No matter how minimal they appear to be, no matter how difficult they may be to recognize, they are indeed there. This isn’t to say that everything is -or should be seen as- all unicorns and rainbows (certainly, life will throw plenty of tragedy and heartache our way), or that all of our waking moments are or will be uninterrupted heavenly bliss….rather, that we should always put the effort forth in realizing gratitude.

I am a hypocrite, of course- there are plenty of times that I am overwhelmed with the enormity of what appears to be insurmountable odds or so long a challenging road before me that any semblance of “blessing” seems to be rather put off in an unfathomable distance. But this is exactly what the enemy of our souls wants. He wants us to take the wide road of negative thoughts that leads us deeper and deeper into our stresses. He wants us to be consumed with worry, to fill our hearts with compounding unease. He wants us to weaken in order that we abandon our hope and faith in God’s grace, falling utterly into despair.

What does all of this have to do with being thankful?

When we make the conscious effort to find the blessings in our life, to find the good in what we have and where we are, we plant seeds of inner strength and hope. These seeds grow into strong trees with deep, reaching roots and mighty boughs that may bend in the brutal winds of trial, but will never snap under the strain, nor be uprooted and fall as the shallow-rooted tree topples in sandy soil that has been overly saturated with rain. Focusing on the blessings we have, fostering a state of being thankful for the good which is in fact manifest in our lives keeps us from being blindly led astray in our worry or despair. In time, we can also see the purifying blessing that even difficulties can hold- we may never welcome such circumstances, but we may come to appreciate their opportunity to bring us closer to God. Being thankful (even in the face of our trials) breaks the shackles that bind us to our negative thoughts, that which keeps us chained to despondency. Gratitude draws our focus to God’s ever-present grace, through which we renew, strengthen, and cement our faith- a firm faith can carry us through even the worst that life can throw at us.

Always give thanks to God, our Heavenly Father. Even in the darkest of moments, resist the urge to despair and instead focus on Him, on all that He has provided (and continues to provide) and give thanks. Yes, it is easier said than done…but we can most certainly break the patterns that bind us to negativity, to those passions that would pull us under and have us drown.

Gratitude is the narrow course that leads us away from the abyss and ultimately toward salvation through God’s grace.

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, a Saying

It seems that we do not understand one thing: it is not good when we return the love of those who love us, yet hate those who hate us. We are not on the right path if we do this. We are the sons of light and love, the sons of God, his children. As such we must have His qualities and His attributes of love, peace, and kindness towards all.

– Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica