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.

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If There Is No Joy In Your Witness…

If there is no joy in your witness, what then would compel me to follow you along your professed “path”?

This is a question I initially raised to a non-Catholic, non-Orthodox friend…a great guy, a great family man, a devout Christian- but one so full of anger in his arguments. Over time, I began to wonder where in his soul does the joy of Christ reside? There seemed to be too much bitterness over the issues discussed or debated to allow a sense of joy to rest within his heart or to be expressed through dialogue. Granted, it sounds as if I’m being judgemental and implying my friend has anger issues- no, that’s not it… but his frustrations over injustices and the growing unrighteousness of the secular world seem to overshadow his message, and this came across more noticeably to me in the period before my coming back to the Church, when I was more apt to debate from my own distorted positions. In the end, it wasn’t any of his valid points of discussions / truth of his arguments that really convinced me to come back, but the very living example of my girlfriend (now, wife)- sure, she would get and gets angry and may express her frustrations, but there is an unshakable faith and joy that permeates her very being, and is at the core of that from which she draws in the challenging moments life throws at us.

Perhaps similarly, I far too often see the first example come to the fore on social media, especially Facebook. I belong to a number of discussion groups- these days, my workload prevents me from being active or as active as I really would like to be….none-the-less, I see a lot of (frankly speaking) bitterness and anger- snipes, unfriendly arguments, and all such manner of unpleasantness that is quite a turn-off. It wouldn’t be so much an issue in more mundane groups, but these are *religious* discussion groups of which I’m writing- and Catholic / Orthodox groups at that! Granted, one may make the legitimate point that we cannot base our opinions of things-religious (groups, communities, etc.) on what we read on social media, but I would like to posit the position that if one were seeking (information, to get a feel of members of a particular Church or expression, etc.), it’s likely such a one would turn to this means of communication as a first effort to establish contact, raise questions, and make the first efforts to learn…… is the immediate face of that Church or expression rife with bitterness, arguing, insult, and a clear lack of charity and joy? What manner of impression would that serve to create?

There is nothing wrong with disagreement, debate, or even spirited discussion- but we must maintain to our Christian principle of charity, we have to keep in mind that our manner of expressing ourselves may be a seeker’s inspiration to explore and learn further, or it may very well be the drive which pushes him or her away, meandering lost on winding and confusing roads that lead not to salvation, but to a complete separation from God and his Holy Church.

Again, and in closing, If there is no joy in your witness, what then would compel me to follow you along your professed “path”?