There is something about whining and complaining that’s utterly depressing, isn’t there? Not only does it bring you down, it drags down everyone else around you and then keeps your mind firmly planted in the fields of annoyance, jealousy, envy, and disdain. Even if you wanted to see the goodness and loveliness in life, you won’t—or can’t—because complaining fills your world with drear. It’s the perfect buzz-kill. Any joy within a 20-mile radius is slaughtered and left for dead.
A confessor once told my husband that the easiest way to contend with these sorts of feelings of discontent, disillusionment, or just the general malaise of unhappiness is to be grateful—for anything really—a crunchy apple, a good song on the radio, anything. He advised him to focus on only those things in his life that he was blessed with, to try and recognize what he had instead of what he didn’t—and that’s exactly what the author Ann Voskamp figured out and wrote about in her book, “One Thousand Gifts”. She tells her poetic life story, how she waded through the tragic to arrive at a place of gratitude and love, and through it, happiness. But it all started with simply learning to appreciate robins, trees, sunlight and the smell of bread as well as the thousand other gifts that had been given to her, and return thanks to God for them.
“Always rejoice,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 states. “Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all.” St. Paul says in all things—not just when I’ve won the lottery, gotten the 32 GB iPhone in black for Christmas, or found the man/woman of my dreams—do I give thanks. Seems like a pretty simple thing to do to attain a modicum of happiness, doesn’t it—be grateful every once in a while?
Simple—yet not always easy. Down in the dumps, the last thing anyone wants to do is focus on something good, so it may feel a bit contrived when you first bring yourself to identify the beauty around you. Yet this is where happiness—or better, joy—lies; in allowing the loveliness of life to settle into your mind and heart and fill your whole field of vision. Then everything, even pain, heartache and hardships, becomes a gift and a blessing and more importantly, a joy, which you can clearly see is a favour straight from the hand of God.
“If those who have no confidence in [Jesus], nor respect for Him, do not receive any of the favours He offers to all, they have only their own bad disposition to thank for it. It is true that all cannot aspire to the same sublime states, to the same gifts, to the same degree of perfection; yet, if faithful to grace, they corresponded to it, each according to his degree, they would all be satisfied because they would all attain that degree of grace and of perfection which would fully satisfy their desires. They would be happy according to nature, and according to grace, because nature and grace share equally in the ardent desire for this priceless advantage.” – Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence