THERE WAS A time, when life was very dark, that I’d look around for people who had things way harder than I did. That helped remind me that my situation wasn’t quite so sucky, by comparison. I called it blessings by default: I may not have this (which I want) but at least I don’t have that (which I don’t want).
This “thanks for nothing” attitude got me through the day, but it wasn’t exactly life-giving. You’re not going to find many “Cheer up, things could be worse” inspirational posts on Instagram. That is, unless Eeyore has an account I haven’t found yet.
Over time, I came to realize how skewed this thinking was. It would be like getting an invite to the Last Supper and then complaining that you had the seat at the end of the table (that’s a joke, by the way, with a nod to da Vinci’s “table for 26, please” depiction).
I also came to see that I had a more inflated opinion of myself than I had recognized. I wasn’t grateful for all the things I did have—health, family, friends, work, food, a place to live and all that—because I didn’t see them as anything other than my simple due. Of course I deserved them; I was me, after all! Talk about a privileged attitude.
And I had to acknowledge that I was more negative about other people than I wanted to admit. While I considered myself worthy of whatever they may have that I didn’t, I’d often think to myself that they—on the other hand—didn’t really deserve it. God must be grading on a curve for them, I suspected. In other words, while I deserved more than I had, they deserved less than they had. Talk about messed up.
Working with someone on a book about the “fear of the Lord” helped me see more clearly. There is a considerable emphasis in the contemporary church on (the wonderful truth of) God’s great love for us. But because of that, we can tend to lose sight of the fact that only one dimension of that—His great mercy—preserves us from the consequences of another part of Him, His absolute righteousness.
The problem with highlighting any aspect of God’s character and nature is that you risk appearing to downplay others. But I came to see that appropriate fear of God doesn’t drive us farther away from Him; it actually draws us closer in wonder and thanksgiving.
These days, I’m more aware that the blessings in my life are not measured in comparison to how others have things. They are to be appreciated in the light of how, other than for God’s great love, I might have nothing. Knowing I really don’t deserve anything, I truly can be thankful for nothing.