Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
–Psalm 136:1

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
–James 1:2-4

Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows.
–Alan Cohen

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything.
–Thomas Merton

Dear Munchkins,
A spirit of entitlement is running rampant throughout our world today, and it’s killing people’s gratitude for the good things of life. Because many of us think we’re entitled to sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows while we’re here, we don’t really appreciate the good things God blesses us with. And, to make matters worse, we feel bitter and resentful when God allows bad things to come along.

Every human being has some degree of feelings of entitlement in them. None of us are completely free from the stink of it. It shows up when we feel entitled to love, respect, fairness, kindness, justice, support, or a life free of painful bumps and bruises. Nothing will atrophy gratitude in the human heart faster than thinking we’re entitled.

You munchkins are no different. So far, you seem to feel entitled to watch as many hours of cartoons as you want, eat as many snacks as you want, have as much fun as you want, go to Target to get a new toy whenever you want, and irritate Pop as often as you want—you know, normal kid stuff. I want you to start working NOW on trying to eliminate any spirit of entitlement that has found its way into your heart so that you will be more grateful as your life unfolds.

I grew up singing a song in church, Count Your Many Blessings. It was written by Johnson Oatman in 1897 (isn’t that a perfect name for someone living in the late 1800’s?). The chorus of the song is “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessing, see what God hath done.” I’m glad we sang that song because it reminded me to be grateful to God for all the blessings He showered me with growing up—a family, education, health, friends, physical provision, hobbies, and a hundred other wonderful things.

William Penn was right when he said, “The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” So true. Far too often, we’re adding up all our troubles and only paying attention to the things we lack rather than the wonderful blessings we experience in life.

You’re going to think Pop has lost his mind with what I’m about to say next. Not only do we need to be thankful for our blessings, we need to be thankful for our problems and the suffering that goes along with them. “Pop, come on, you can’t be serious! You want me to be thankful for my problems? Are you nuts?”

Yes, I’m certifiably nuts . . . nuttier than a fruitcake. But I’m serious about how we need to be grateful for the problems that come our way in life. You see, problems help us grow. Without problems, all of us would stay immature, unappreciative little snots who never matured into full-fledged adults.

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wisely said, “It is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.” Those are some words to live by, don’t you think?

Mother Teresa was spot on when she said, “Gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.” When’s the last time any of us accepted our problems with joy? If you’re like me, you fuss, whine, moan, and complain when God allows problems to slam into your life. Not good.

All this reminds me of when Job was having a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” back in Old Testament times. Job lost everything—livestock, servants, children, physical health. Yet, here’s how Job responded to the terrible, horrible, no good problems that came his way, words that have echoed throughout human history: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). WWWWWHHHHHAAAAATTTTT? You gotta be kidding me! Yep, that’s what he said. Maybe Job was nuttier than a fruitcake.

I don’t think so. I think Job understood he wasn’t entitled to the blessings of the Lord, something that made him grateful for all of God’s blessings and helped him handle adversity in the mature way he did. That’s the heart of gratitude we’re supposed to have in life. We’re supposed to be grateful for all the good things that come from God, and we’re supposed to accept and grow from the painful, crushing things that come from living in a fallen world.

Munchkins, count your blessings, name them one by one. Also, count (not add up) your problems, name them one by one. Be grateful for both your blessings and your problems. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Love,
Pop