Serene Gratitude

As just about everyone knows, rabbits love gardens. One particular rabbit decided to plant a flower garden around he perimiter of her yard. She knew that she couldn't afford to purchase all the plants at once, so she began with two batches of yellow daisies and planted them on either side of the front walk.

Later that afternoon, when her daughter came home from school, she was presented with a lovingly hand-picked boquet of yellow daisies. A glance out the window confirmed her worst fear. The daughter had picked all of her freshly planted daisies.

Now here's what might have happened...

The mother rabbit was furous. She yelled at her daughter for destroying the plants without even asking if they belonged to someone. The daughter was incredibly hurt and ran off crying. She called her mother some terrible names. Mom responded by sending her to bed without supper. All the next day, the two of them were hostile toward each other. The daughter resented everything her "meanie" mother told her to do, including saying her prayers.

But that didn't happen. Here's what actually transpired.
The mother rabbit praised her daughter for the gift. She set the flowers in a vase and gave them water. She told her daughter how much she loved the flowers and explained her plan to line the yard with live flowers. The daughter promised not to pick those. Mom showed the boquet to Dad when he got home and praised her daughter again. Dad was impressed and praised her as well. When the kit said her prayers that night, she thanked God for having such loving parents.

It would have been so easy for the mother rabbit to fly off the handle. But she practiced serene gratitude instead.

What is serene gratitude? Simply, it's peaceful living through a thankful attitude. It sounds simple, but it covers an array of methods. The first, of course, is the one alluded to a moment ago. Looking past the inconvenience of someone's mistakes and seeing the motivation behind them. In the case of the rabbits, the mother saw past the destruction of her plants and beheld her daughter's desire to present her with something pretty.

Can you think of a time when someone tried to do something nice for you and screwed up? Perhaps they gave you the wrong "Vaporizing Venusian" action figure for Christmas. Or maybe they tried to solve a problem at work by talking to your boss and made things worse instead.

I can think of one individual who did that. His name was Moses.

The Israelites resented Moses for making things worse for them. What they didn't realize is that this was God's plan. It wouldn't be long before Pharoh was forced to capitulate. But even if this hadn't happened, there was no call to resent Moses. The man loved Israel and was, at God's command, doing what he could to rescue his nation from slavery. And after seeing the outcome of the exodus, it's easy to look back and say that we would have stood with Moses. But if that's true, then getting the wrong Vaporizing Venusian action figure becomes a pretty stupid thing to get upset about, doesn't it?

Serene grace not only involves being thankful for what was intended, but for what is refused.

Take Paul. Paul had a handicap- a "thorn in the flesh". We don't know exactly what it was, though many suppose it was poor vision. Paul longed to be rid of it. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 12:7.

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Paul was a great man. I think we're all agreed on that. But why was he great? It was not because of anything that he himself had done. He was a great man because he obeyed the Lord without fear. It was by the power of God that he accomplished great things. Had Paul been physically whole, he might have become proud. This would have made him useless. God would not have been glorified and Paul would have lost the honor he had as God's beloved servant. But by being physically weak, Paul was able to let God shine through him. He brought glory to God and in the process was himself exalted.

God refused healing to Paul and in effect did him a favor. Nor is he the only one. There is a young man- I do not recall his name- who has a powerful healing ministry. Yet he,himself, is terribly deformed. His body is so underdeveloped that it cannot support his head unaided. God has not healed him, despite giving him the gift of healing. Why? Quite possibly for the same reason he would not heal Paul. I also know of a certain minister who has diabetes and fibromialgia. He has to work out to the limit of his endurance to keep his blood sugar under control, which leaves him weak and crippled. As a result, he's unable to work full time. But because he's unable to work, he has more time to devote to the ministry.

Now I could get upset and stressed out over my health. In fact, I've done so. But you know what? It didn't solve anything. It just made me feel bad. Better to be thankful for what you don't have than stressed out over what you covet.

The third point of practicing serene gratitude is to be thankful for things you don't like. Yes, it's counterintuitive. Nevertheless, it is true. We all have things which we don't like yet must endure. Some of them are small. Getting up at 4 in the morning to deliver papers is something I don't want to do. Yet I am thankful for the work because it puts food on the table. Others are quite big. Consider Job. He was in such anguish, having lost everything but his wife, even his health, becoming covered head to toe in boils. His wife encouraged him to curse God and secure a quick death rather than continue to suffer. What did Job say?

Job 2:10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
Job was thankful for the good he received from God. He was just as willing to receive evil. Just FYI: this means misfortune, not moral evil. This is important, actually, because Job knew that God could do no moral evil. Job had no scriptures, since his was the first book of the bible to be written. Yet he knew the character of God from the relationship that they had. He did not understand why God did not spare him this suffering, but he trusted God. He knew that God would work things for good.

And Job's trust was validated. Job was imortalized as one of the very first old testament saints. His story became its own book of the bible. His suffering allowed billions of others to understand God more clearly, as well as to get a better understanding of suffering- why it is permitted, that it does not signify guilt, and that it will be repaid. That it is not necessary to seek justice against God because God IS justice. Like Paul would in the distant future, Job glorified God in his weakness and by allowing himself to be brought low was exalted above nearly the entire human race.

Personally, I hope I never get the opportunity to glorify God in such a manner. But if I do, I shall endeavor to glorify God with all my being and give thanks for everything that is sent my way, for the momentary misfortune as well as the blessings and mercies.

So now for this week's challenge. If you have not acepted Jesus as your savior, that it the indespensible first step toward serene gratitude. Until you appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for you, the rest doesn't really matter.

For my fellow Christians, the challenge is to make sure that you are employing the principles of serene gratitude in every aspect of your life. Give thanks for what is intended, what is withheld, and what you don't want. Keep the faith, hope in God and love your neighbor.

Pastor Oren Otter
October 21, 2006

Today's Reading: Psalm 100

100:1 A Psalm of praise. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.