Being Thankful For What Is Not Clear

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Rhonda, my mother, and I went out to eat last week for an extended Mother’s Day celebration. We chose a restaurant based on positive past experiences and its quiet atmosphere. As it turned out, the restaurant was a big disappointment. The food was overcooked, the staff was inattentively detached, and the service was tolerably mediocre. We’d eaten at this place a half-dozen times and enjoyed the experience. But this time the experience was distastefully substandard. Yet, the experience did provide an opportunity to be thankful for the unusual. In this case it seemed, the unusually lousy. 

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In the strategy to becoming more thankful and thus happy, I’ve laid out four stages: 

1. Thankful for the ordinary or usual – what’s in front of you

2. Thankful for the unusual – positive or negative happenings you experience

3. Thankful for the neutral – those “good” or “bad” people, things, or situations which seem neither good or bad

4. Thankful for the negative – the trials, tragedies, and losses that you experience 

Our experience at the restaurant was unusual but also neutral. There certainly were aspects of the experience that were positive – being with loved ones, celebrating Mother’s Day with my 87-year-old mother, having the financial ability to eat out, receiving one complimentary meal since it was not properly prepared, and having the mind and body to do this. Though disappointing at some level, there was much for which to be thankful. 

In these kinds of situations, the level of living in thankfulness is challenged. It’s not a matter of fooling ourselves into positive thoughts that “all is good.” Living in thankfulness is being thankful for all things whether we regard them as good or bad. Sometimes, we just don’t know. 

You’ve heard stories of people tragically laid off who then start businesses that flourish far beyond what they could have imagined. A short stint in jail can turn a life around. An illness can be the catalyst for positive life change. A moral failure can humble a person to live well. It’s often difficult to discern situations as good or bad. What’s needful is to be thankful for all things.

So, here’s the challenge from me to you. Let’s not focus so much on trying to figure out what’s good or bad. Let’s focus on developing a thankful heart. Find reasons to be thankful even in what seems negative. It might turn out that the negative is really a positive. It may be that what looks good may not actually be good. Being thankful covers it all. 

Thankfulness. It’s the best way to live. 

Dr. K