Sometimes I’m not thankful.
There. I said it. It’s a pretty hard thing to admit.
It’s not that I am ever purposefully un-thankful. It’s more a “whoops, I just caught myself in the throes of self-pity I need to remind myself that I’m pretty blessed and start focusing on the positive instead of being a whiny ingrate” sort of thing.
I chide myself for being ridiculous. I remind myself of all I’ve been given, pulling my focus away from what I don’t have. Because that’s really what the problem is – the source of the lack of gratefulness that creeps into my mind from time to time. Not because I want more, but because I worry I don’t have enough.
Silly isn’t it? That I have a life filled with more comfort and ease than most throughout human history and I worry about things? King Solomon in all his wealth and glory didn’t have air conditioning. Or antibiotics. Or lots of things I take for granted on a daily basis. Basically this:
So why? Why in a life and time of relative ease do I (and hopefully we, or else I’m going to feel pretty foolish) stress about not having enough?
I don’t really know.
I think part of it is we’re all walking around with a slight case of FOMO. For all you non-acronymers out there, that’s the Fear Of Missing Out, generally applied to envy about the good times being had by others, but I think it’s bigger. We’re afraid of missing out on everything.
It’s always been an issue. Remember the rich young ruler?
“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Crazy. He was there with Jesus. He had Him right there to ask anything. So, like most of us probably would, we wants to know about eternal life. Heaven. The Big Goal. And he gets an answer – keep the commandments. Do what you already know you’re supposed to do. But the young man says he’s good there; he already keeps them. Jesus looks at him and understands him. He tells the man what he has to hear – “give up your money and your stuff and just follow me”. That man has Jesus right there in front of him asking him to follow Him, join Him. And he can’t. Because he likes his stuff too much.
Jesus goes on to discuss the difficulties of the rich making into Heaven. How hard it is for people to truly give everything up to follow Him. And it’s true – the more wealth and material goods we have in our lives the less we see a need for a Savior.
It’s easy to criticize the guy. This unnamed man has an opportunity most Christians would give anything for, and he throws it away. But honestly, most of us are the rich guy. The Global Rich List has this handy little calculator to estimate your income compared to the rest of the world. Go on, try it. It’s good to have your eyes opened from time to time.
Most Americans are shockingly, embarrassingly wealthy. Chances are you’re one of them. But we don’t live in a world that encourages us to take time to be thankful for the riches we have, if one has ever existed. Instead we have a world that encourages us to want more, focusing on income inequality and what we could have if the world was more fair and we just worked a little bit harder.
We don’t judge our wealth by the blessings we’ve been given, but by the blessings we perceive others to have. We have enough money to have a place to live, but with a little more we could live even better. We have money to eat, but with a little more it could be lobster every night (if you like lobster, I’m more turf than surf). We have enough money for so many things, but we see the way our friends live on Facebook and Instagram and if we had just a little bit more…
Or, as one headline so succinctly puts it: “Americans define ‘rich’ as anyone who makes more money than they do”.
Look, real problems exist. Financial issues happen. Health issues, layoffs, and all sorts of other things can derail your life in a minute and it’s never going to be easy. My goal isn’t to delegitimatize your worries.
But maybe, just maybe, we don’t need to be quite as worried as we are. FOMO shouldn’t exist for Christians. God calls us not to worry about the things we don’t have, because we need to have faith that He’ll ultimately provide for us. Maybe not with what we think we want, but with what He knows we need.
When we realize that God will provide for us, we won’t have quite the fear of missing out. Compared to an eternity with God, what are the things we want in this life? I’d take a villa in Italy in a heartbeat, but compared to Heaven it’s just as valuable as a shack in the woods.
Take time to be thankful. Not just this month, when it’s on everyone’s mind, but always. Don’t waste time thinking about what others have that you don’t. Count your blessings. Go beyond that. Seek for ways to share those blessings with others. Show the goodness of God by sharing what He’s given you.
If your future is built on a foundation of what God has given you instead of what you can provide for yourself, you’ll always have reason to be thankful and you’ll never miss out.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”