A certain Protestant minister, while visiting the sick, once came to a psychiatric hospital. One of the patients there, who experienced a moment of lucidity, came up to the minister and asked him: “Have you ever thanked God for being in full possession of your faculties?” The minister was dumbfounded by such an unexpected question. No, it had never entered his mind to thank God for such an evident gift. Only here in this hospital, seeing such a great number of mentally-ill unfortunate people around him, did he realize that reason is a great gift from God! Then and there the minister decided that he would daily thank God for his sanity.
This example characterizes mankind’s general attitude towards life’s gifts - people have become accustomed to accepting everything as their due, as a matter of course. Seldom does anyone thank his Creator, Who constantly takes care of him and endows him with boundless material and spiritual gifts.
“Wherever you may look with your spiritual eyes, - writes St. John of Kronstadt, - either inside yourself or around yourself, everywhere you will see great cause for thanking and glorifying God!”
Certainly our entire life is an uninterrupted chain of God’s benevolence! He has created our body, which is more perfect that any mechanism or computer. He has breathed into us an immortal godlike soul, which animates our perishable body and is more precious to us than anything else. He has endowed us with reason, which elevates us above animals; a free will, by means of which we can excel physically and spiritually, and can guide our life towards goodness; and feelings that are able to enjoy the gifts of God’s grace, to find happiness and joy in life.
Although we are unable to see God with our eyes, we know that He constantly takes care of us better that the most caring mother. He commands the sun to shine upon us. He showers us with the bounties of rain and the earth’s fruitfulness. By His will all nature and all creatures serve our benefit and enjoyment. His divine power supports and preserves our life among all that is hostile and dangerous in the world. Each moment of our life is a gift of His boundless benevolence, our every breath is a sign of His fatherly concern, every beat of our heart is the result of His great love and mercy.
But that is not all! When through transgression of God’s commandments mankind subjected itself to all possible misfortunes, became unworthy of life and bliss, God the Father did not allow it to perish. On the contrary, due to His endless love, He “gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The only-begotten Son of God, pitying us prodigal children, came down to our earth and took upon Himself our mortal being. He “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He taught us to live righteously and showed us the way into the Heavenly Realm. He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind, suffered humiliation, mockery, beating, suffering on the cross and a shameful death for our sake, shed His blood for us and gave up His life for us, “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
The Holy Spirit - one in essence with the Father and the Son - descends upon us for the sake of the Son’s sacrifice, cleanses our conscience of sinful deeds, enlivens and sanctifies our being, gives us His divine power which we need for a righteous life, and makes us the children of God.
Despite all this we often forget God, we grieve His charity by our stubbornness, stupidity, malice! But God not only does not destroy us, but continues to forgive us and have mercy upon us, patiently waiting for our amendment. Despite our frequent falling into sin, with great care and wisdom He guides our life to salvation, to endless joy in the heavenly abodes. Seldom do people think of how many impediments they create for God in the matter of their salvation!
In times of trials and tribulations many people despair and grumble against God. But we must understand that the Lord sometimes does allow misfortune and sorrow to visit us, but not because He has forgotten us or wants to punish us. Not at all! He allows it as a bitter yet necessary medicine, which cures us of pride, thoughtlessness, conceit, egoism and other shortcomings. Realizing this, the great hierarch St. John Chrysostome used to say at the end of his days: “Thanks be to God for everything, and especially for sorrows!”
We, Orthodox Christians, must especially thank God for having granted us the honor of being members of His true Church, which by the power of the Holy Spirit preserves the pure teaching of the Gospel, which sanctifies and fortifies us with its grace-filled sacraments. It is the same Church to which belonged the prophets, apostles, martyrs and all the saints who reside in the heavenly abodes and who make up, together with us, their lesser brethren, the one great family of God. It is the very Church in which we receive the sacred gifts of the life-giving Body and Blood of our Saviour, which grant us immortality.
Thus, when we ponder the path of God’s providence in our lives, we see that it is not so much our duty, as our entire being, our entire present and future life that demands our constant awareness of God’s benevolence towards us and constant gratitude towards God for everything. It must be added that it not God Who needs our gratitude, but we ourselves. When we thank God, we remember His love towards us, His constant care for us, and that boundless stream of material and spiritual gifts which He daily showers upon us. Such a remembrance clears up our reason and allows us to comprehend with greater clarity the purpose of our lives.
Moreover, gratitude to God disperses dejection, gets rid of sorrow, brings back cheerfulness and joy. Gratitude to God may be compared with the warm rays of the sun, which penetrate the dark cellar of our souls. From contact with the spiritual Sun the soul warms up, becomes kinder and opens up to love. Thus let us try daily, and especially on Sundays, to thank our Creator and Saviour - thanks be to God for everything!