Why art thou cast down, O my soul?

We are perpetually disappointed, long in complaints but short in gratitude. Mark Monford has his finger on the pulse of our culture.

What the hell is wrong with you? Are you really going to wear that? … What happened to my bonus? What happened to my job? What happened to my country? Why can’t it all go the way it’s supposed to go? You mean having a kid won’t solve my marriage problems? Why don’t these drugs make me feel better? Where’s that g-dd-mn waiter with my salad? Have you seen the stupid weather today? Is this really all there is?

Study after study shows that material wealth does not bring happiness, but rather more disappointment. I read recently that there is good evidence to suggest that up to $10,000 per annum income makes us happier. After that, all bets are off. Monford spins this out to its conclusion:

Maybe this, then, is the ultimate upshot of our endless, self-wrought swirl of sour disappointment, of never having our impossible needs fully met, of constantly being thwarted in our desire to have the world revolve around our exact set of specifications and desires.

Our disappointment begins to curdle, to turn back on itself, poison the heart, turn us nasty and low. It shifts from merely being a national mood or general temperament, into a way of being. A wiring, deep and harmful and permanent. It’s all very disappointing, really.

We can change this about ourselves. Practice makes perfect, and that includes gratitude. In The Year of Living Biblically, A. J. Jacobs writes that he actually became grateful when he practiced thanking God for everything in his life. Lex orandi lex credendi. Try it out! Thank God — and other people — for the many blessings of our lives. I’ll start:

Thank you, God, for loving family & friends. Thank you for a sunny day. Thank you for a safe place to sleep tonight. Thank you for endless entertainment and inspiration on the interwebs. Thank you for the yummy espresso I just finished, and for the availability of another one. Thank you for the resources to be able to buy two espressos. (Thank you for the kind of brain that wonders if I should have written “espressi”.) Thank you for a the privilege of serving as a priest in your church, God — among inspiring people. Thank you for the beauty of creation and for the redemption of the world through your son, Jesus Christ.

You get the idea. Lent is coming up. Maybe instead of giving up chocolate, it’s time to take on the discipline of gratitude. You won’t be disappointed. Well, not as often. The title of this post is the beginning of the eleventh verse of Psalm 42. Here’s the end of that verse, “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”

Please add some gratitude in the comments. That would be a nice change from the bitterness that Monford notices in the comments sections of most blogs. Give it a try right now. What are you grateful for?

Thanks to kottke.org for pointing me to this post. Image from Wikipedia.

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2 Responses

  1. chris says:

    Your post reminded me of a saying I came across recently: “Media make money merchandising misery.” I think the various media fuel our discontent and disappointment, and they have a monetary interest in fanning these flames.

    Now for the gratitude… I’m grateful for the light snow that is falling, for my own breathing and beating heart, for a wife who loves me so, for our little dog whom we for some reason call ‘the bean’, for a job I love and a congregation I love, for the joy of writing, for music, for the good uses of technology (especially medical uses), for Simone Weil and the indirect love of God. These are what I am grateful for today.

    Peace to you.

  2. Barb Lewis says:

    I have been pondering what I was going to say in my Lenten letter to the congregation this year. I now know. Thanks so much for all of your insightful blogs.