Choosing gratitude in the midst of adversity
Splash Guest Column
One of my favorite contemporary theologians is Paul McCartney. Don't you marvel at how being one of the Beatles was only the start of his career, and how he has had things to say not only about love and life, but also often about God all along?
One of his latest albums, "Memory Almost Full," has a favorite song of mine titled "Gratitude." The opening goes like this:
That about sums it up, doesn't it? We can and should be grateful. He says it over and over. And then over again.
"But wait, didn't even Paul McCartney go through some hard times?" you might wonder. "I think I remember that Linda, his first wife and the love of his life, died some years ago? Then he remarried, but that relationship took a nosedive and ended in a divorce? Surely this suggests that even one of the most famous, wealthy, adored persons that has ever walked the earth has suffered, so why is he crooning on and on about gratitude?" Perhaps Paul is going through another great infatuation (no doubt a possibility). Or maybe, just maybe, he has grown into a wise and even holy man.
Recently, a sister of mine (I am blessed to have six) and I were lamenting how a mutual friend, no matter how much she has, is never happy. It would be so tempting to lecture her about developing a grateful heart. Indeed, our friend has also suffered. But somehow a rebound seems beyond her. That spirit of gratitude is just not there. Everyone can see it, and the tragedy of her life is difficult to bear, for her and for those who love her. Have you ever met our friend?
This reminds me of a true story that changed my life. Several years ago, a prominent preacher named John Claypool had a 10-year-old daughter, Laura Lue, who lost her valiant fight with leukemia. Her parents had been with her every agonizing step of the way. Her suffering was so bad that they sometimes had to put a cloth in her mouth just so she could bite her way through the pain. At other times, their little Laura would turn to them and ask them if they were praying to God that she would get better. Oh yes, they assured her, they were storming the heavens with their prayers. "Then what did God say?" she pleaded. They had no answer for their littlest angel.
I mention their story because at the funeral, her father John preached one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard. One of the truths he clung to, and of which he assures all who have followed in the difficult footsteps of suffering, is that no matter what else, he and his wife would always choose to be suffused with gratitude for the life of his beloved daughter.
Gratitude is one of the deepest and most formidable choices we can ever make. G.K. Chesterton said it well, "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
God has blessed us with a world of wonder, particularly in the marvel and gift of his own Son who didn't bypass the suffering at all, but rather entered into to it for our sake. In doing so he sung his own song of gratitude, a song I am spending my own life learning to sing. It has a catchy tune.
Two years ago The Rev. Linda Bartholomew moved to Spokane to serve the loving, generous and energetic people of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Spokane Valley. She and her husband Adam (also an Episcopal priest) have a beautiful daughter Jessica, granddaughter Emma, and soon to be son-in-law FJ, who live too far away in Cincinnati, Ohio.