I have a friend from whom I’m learning much about being thankful in the midst of pain. He is a deeply committed Christian, takes God seriously, is devoted to the Church, lives an exemplary Christian life (which he’d probably deny), is loved deeply by all his family members, and is well-respected by hundreds of people. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with ALS – Lou Gehrig disease. He is dealing with the deepest reality of his own mortality. How did he respond to his diagnosis?[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
One of the ways he responded was to begin saying a prayer of thanksgiving. I don’t know if he felt like being thankful or even wanted to be thankful. My guess is that he didn’t feel like being thankful at all. He only knew he was supposed to be thankful in all things at all times. So, that’s what he did. He said words of thanks to God.
When you don’t feel thankful or desire it, it’s necessary to have a guide to help you become thankful. When your heart is not in it, it can become “in it” by participating in the prayer/hymn of someone else.
So, he DID something. He didn’t merely think about how he should be thankful. He didn’t wait for a feeling or right motivation. He began being thankful by saying a specific prayer of thanks to God. He could have chosen to say words from the Psalms. Yet, he chose to say what has become known as “The Akathist of Thanksgiving.” (An “akathist” is a written prayer or hymn to be said while “not sitting” which is the literal meaning of “akathist.) The author is Metropolitan Tryphon of Moscow (1861-1934) who had a childhood illness and family struggles.
When you don’t feel like it, you can still be thankful. Say the words and thankfulness comes. And these are deeply meaningful words.
The first “stanza” has words like this:
Glory to Thee Who hast called me into life.
Glory to Thee Who are revealing to us the beauty of the universe.
Glory to Thee Who art opening to us heaven and earth as an eternal book of wisdom.
Glory to Thy eternity in the passing world.
Glory to Thee for Thy covert and overt mercies.
Glory to Thee for every sigh of my heart.
Glory to Thee for every step of life, Every moment of joy.
Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!
I tear up even as I type these words. My heart fills with thanks for who God is, reminded by these glorious words. And this is just the first “verse.” There are 12 more to go!
I’m not a good example of being thankful in difficult times. My M-O is to complain, whine, find someone to blame or try to figure out how to escape. Weeks later I might realize the need to give thanks.
So, I need to learn from my friend’s example. When facing unexpected and overwhelming difficulties, say The Akathist of Thanksgiving.
It is quite lengthy. You might want to say only one “verse” every day.
The important things is to have this resource available when you face what seems like insurmountable challenges. Saying thanks to God transforms any situation. It transforms the heart as well as the difficulty itself.
I invite us all to do this as we face difficulties.
P.P.S. I just spoke the second “verse” of The Akathist of Thanksgiving before getting in front of my computer to type. The words fed and lifted my soul. I was reminded that we are simply guests in God’s beautiful world. Thanks be to God!