I was listening to a radio program a few weeks ago hosted by my Latin professor from seminary. During the program, he stated that God allows us to be disappointed in order that we may turn back to Him. Each one of us has plans, dreams, and expectations for life: for family, for relationships, for career, for goals, and for many other areas of life. As we all know, our plans, dreams, and expectations are not always met or fulfilled. We face disappointment, in varying degrees and in different areas of life. Parents know that sometimes their children must experience adversity and disappointment in order to grow, thrive, and become resilient. Similarly, God knows that we must experience disappointment to grow but also in order to turn back to Him, becoming more dependent on Him and His Providence.
Perhaps people are disappointed in God because they feel that God has not given them what they have wanted in life; perhaps people think God owes them. Fr. John Burns articulates this in his book Lift Up Your Heart: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Francis de Sales, “A spirit of entitlement quite often characterizes our present age: 'I deserve this,' or 'I have to have that,' or 'If I want to do this, I will,' and so on. As a result, we are quick to miss the significance of the gifts we are given and the fact that each one is a unique blessing. The fundamental gifts of God—life, faith, family, friendships, love, and so on—are the foundation of our whole existence. Unfortunately, before we even appreciate these we begin to look around, to compare and compete, rarely content with what we have, always wanting more. Rather than appreciating the blessings given to us by God, we very quickly think, 'My life could be better. And here's how it could be better. And here's who has to change, what I need, and where we need to go for it to start getting better.' We believe we are entitled to happiness on our own terms and at whatever cost.”
Maybe these words seem harsh, but if we are honest with ourselves, I believe we realize that our disappointment sometimes comes from a place in which we feel entitled to something from God. What is the healing remedy to the disappointments of life? Thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanksgiving and gratitude push us to put a halt on the quest for more and more and push us to appreciate the blessings—the fundamental gifts of life, faith, family, friendships, love, and so on—already given to us by God. Thanksgiving allows us to see more and more that everything comes from the hand of God and that everything God gives to us is for our good, aiding us in holiness and our pilgrimage through life.
As we approach the last Thursday of November, we will celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving, and therefore, it is a day for more than just food, family, and football. It is a day to be intentional and deliberate about expressing our gratitude for the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving is a deeply Christian virtue. The word Eucharist comes from Greek meaning “thanksgiving.” As Christians, we give thanks to God not just on the national holiday, but minimally every Sunday at Mass, offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving, thanking God for what He has done for us in our individual lives and what He has done for all of us in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are saints under construction, giving thanks to God for the abundant blessings He has poured into our lives. Have a great week!