Grab your blessings, one by one…

Gratitude can be hard to muster

For some of us, it’s a battle to have a truly grateful heart.

We can say all the right things, be properly thankful in public.

Thank God, the chemotherapy seemed to work. I’m now cancer free.

Thank God, after six months of looking for a job, I found one.

Thank God, I got up this morning in my right mind (at least, sort of) and I can walk and talk.

But sometimes there’s that voice in our heads….

It’s great that cancer has gone away, but why did I have to get cancer in the first place? I never smoked a cigarette in my life, and I just spent the last four months throwing up and losing my hair. Why did I have to go through that?

It’s terrific that I got another job, but why did I have to get laid off last year? I still like my old job better, and why did the company have to move to China?

It’s wonderful that I can still function, but why do I have to get old? Why does life seem to go by so fast?

Most of us don’t say these things, but the questions sometimes linger. It seems sinful (or at least ungrateful) to admit these thoughts exist.

That’s why I love the Book of Psalms. It contains honest prayers that can plead to God, vent frustrations and appeal for help to ease pain.

In Psalm 73, a man named Asaph writes, “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man…. ”

It goes on and on, with Asaph calling out to God in anger because it seemed like bad people were getting away with it, and he was having a rotten time.

As he wrote, “All day long I have been plagued, I have been punished every morning.”

Then he adds, “When I tried to understand this, it was oppressive to me.”

On Thanksgiving weekend, some of us may be feeling that way. We smile through the family gatherings, rave about the turkey, try to find some reason to be thankful.

It’s not all phony. We do appreciate the people — at least some of them. We do know how random good health appears, especially when it comes to things such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases.

I find it easy to be thankful for my job, that I can work for a newspaper that pays me well and gives me freedom to write about everything from sports to faith. I am especially thankful for the readers of my stories and my books.

My father worked in a food warehouse; my mother, in a bowling alley. I had part-time jobs at both places while in school. Many of my childhood friends now have middle-aged bodies that are worn down from decades of physical labor.

I’m truly thankful for my wife, not just for 29 years of marriage, but for 29 years of always knowing who is my best friend.

I really have been blessed, and I know it.

But at some point, most of us will look to the heavens and say, “God, I just don’t feel real thankful today.”

In Psalm 73, Asaph seems to talk himself into a thankful heart: “Yet, I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”

He’s drawing gratitude from the hope of heaven. He’s urging God to give him courage: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart.”

Nothing can wash away gratitude faster than being trapped by all the WHY questions. We know most of them can’t be answered. Life doesn’t always make sense. Our view of the world can be faulty, because we see it only through our eyes.

Those who seem to have the most grateful hearts seem to forever be thankful to God for the good things that happen, but don’t blame God for the bad. They don’t worry about the inconsistency of it, probably because they know they’ll never be able sort it all out anyway.

They just grab blessings wherever they can find them and give thanks. That’s the kind of heart that I want this Thanksgiving weekend.

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at


1 Comment »

  1. sam Said:

    yes it can be, but my friend, Jim posted a wonderful insight on his blog too:

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