In this series of posts, I’m sharing what God has been teaching me about gratitude in recent months. Please know that I share these thoughts, not as someone who has this topic all figured out, but from a heart that fails daily in this area. God is showing me some amazing truths from His Word about gratitude, but I’m really still trying to wrap my head around it all.One day while I was working, my neighbor’s dog started barking. It wasn’t a cute little yap that lasted for a few seconds. It wasn’t the territory defending kind of bark as another animal passed by the window outside. No, it was that loud, incessant barking that won’t stop and just grates on my last nerve. Normally, this would be one of those things that would quickly take my good mood and turn it into an irritable one.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who allows these kinds of things to ruin my mood. Getting stuck by a train when you’re already late? Telling your child for the seventeenth time not to do something only to have him turn right around and do it again? Coming out of a store and realizing getting back into your car will be a challenge because the guy who parked next to you doesn’t know how to stay in the lines? Finally drifting off to sleep after an exhausting day just as your teenager comes into your room to ask you a question that could’ve waited until morning? Waiting too long for your food at a restaurant only to find they got your order completely wrong? The car that won’t stop tailing you even though there’s plenty of room to pass you? Or the car that’s going 20 miles below the speed limit and there’s no room to pass him? It’s so easy to let these frustrations and “interruptions” in my day quickly put me into a bad mood.
As I started to feel that familiar annoyance and frustration build up inside, I thought of my gratitude list and quickly whispered the prayer “Thank you, God, for that barking dog.”It may sound completely silly – a bit ridiculous perhaps? But in that moment I had complete peace. I suddenly had a huge smile on my face and was able to go back to work amidst the noise – completely unannoyed by the annoying dog. I remember thinking, “It worked. I don’t know why, but it worked!”
Later, as I thought about the joy that came just from uttering that simple prayer of thanksgiving, I really didn’t understand it. To me, to say you were thankful for something meant that you liked it – that you were happy about it. The things I’m thankful for are the things I’m glad are in my life. I did not like that barking dog, I was not happy it was in my life at that moment, and I most definitely did not feel thankful for it. I actually felt very disingenuous – thanking God for something that I didn’t feel thankful for.
Yet the simple act of gratitude brought about joy. Ann writes that “the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.” This was an interesting thought to me. Having now experienced this, I had to say that I agreed, but I still didn’t understand why.Ýou would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are. You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more or less than blasphemies—though that thought never occurs to you. Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet [God’s] beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is. – Jean-Pierre de Caussade