Grateful {By Comparison}

 Pablino and Victoria's home. We tried to visit once a month while we lived in Guatemala. We learned so much from them. Such beautiful people.

Pablino and Victoria's home. We tried to visit once a month while we lived in Guatemala. We learned so much from them. Such beautiful people.

I have done this often in my life.

I remember one particular instance while we lived in Guatemala.

We were visiting our friends, Pablino and Victoria, an elderly couple who lived just outside the fence of the school we worked at. They lived in a tin and cardboard shack, thrown up and held together with who knows what.

As we sat inside of their home, I tried to not let it show on my face that their tattered walls, their eight chickens running around on the dirt floor, and the flies buzzing around our heads were totally out of this world.

Out of the First World, that is.

And after visiting with them, sharing conversation, and hearing more about Pablino’s ailments, we made our way home.

And that’s when I did it. That’s when I proclaimed my gratitude. My twisted version of gratitude:

Lord, thank You for this fresh air entering my nostrils. I can’t imagine living with chickens all day and night like Pablino and Victoria.

Lord, thank You for the enclosed apartment building made out of cement blocks that we get to live in. Our apartment is a palace compared to the dump that Pablino and Victoria lives in.

Lord, thank You for our health. I don’t know what we would do if we had to deal with old age and crippling sickness and desperate poverty like Pablino and Victoria.

Yes, I was very thankful. But only by comparison. I was thankful for what I had, only because someone else I knew had less.

We share “cute” quotes that advertise this kind of thankfulness all the time:

"No matter how good or bad you think life is, wake up each day and be thankful for life. Someone somewhere else is fighting to survive."

"The things we take for granted, someone else is praying for. Be thankful."

“Thankful-By-Comparison” gratitude is always well intended. We take things for granted all the time. And the fact that others might lack what we happen to possess does beg for a response.

But if the root of jealousy is comparison, then the root of our gratitude shouldn’t be comparison too. We can’t let our gratitude be rooted in anything besides our choice to be joyful in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. {1 Thessalonians 5:16-18}

We shouldn’t be grateful for the food we get to eat only because we know someone else is starving. We should be grateful because today, the Lord provided our daily bread.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. {1 Timothy 6:8}

We shouldn’t be grateful for our children only because we know someone lost one of theirs or because someone we know is barren. We should be grateful because our children are a part of the life God has given us.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.” {Hebrews 13:5}

We shouldn’t be grateful for our health only because someone else we know just received their diagnosis. We should be grateful simply because we have it.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. {Philippians 4:12}

As I mentioned before, when we find our neighbor lacking something they need, that begs for a response.

If we let other people’s poverty or tragedy or sickness become the root of our gratitude, we totally strip away our ability to be compassionate towards our neighbor. Because if compassion is the act of suffering with someone, mourning with someone, then our response to someone’s poverty or tragedy or sickness shouldn’t be, “Well, I’m just thankful that’s not me. That’s not my life. Thank you, Jesus, that I’m not going through those circumstances.”

That family who lost an important person in their lives needs a response from us. They won’t feel supported by our gratitude, but they will feel supported if we mourn with them, walk with them, reach out to them.

Mourn with those who mourn. {Romans 12:15b}

Those people who are starving need a response from us. They can’t fill their hungry bellies on our gratitude, but they can eat what we choose to share from our bounty.

The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. {Luke 3:11}

That person who just received their diagnosis needs a response from us. They won’t be uplifted by our gratitude, but they will be by our prayers and reminders that we are the Church that stands by them in the scariest of times.

Pablino and Victoria’s lack of food and medicine weren’t supposed to be the root of my gratitude that day back when we lived in Guatemala. Rather, it was an opportunity to share daily bread with them. To support them with medicine that our friends and family sponsored with us. To befriend them through the kindness and hospitality they shared with us in return.

Don’t look outside your own life to find gratitude.

Don’t wait for someone else’s poverty or tragedy or sickness to make you say, “Thank you, Lord, for what you have given me.”

Be grateful. For the life that you have. Simply because it is the life God has given you.

Today. Here. Right now.


Grace and Peace,


P.S. What are you grateful for today? Here? Right now? What are you thankful for in your life, simply because it is a part of your life? How can you reach out and share with someone you see suffering through poverty, tragedy, or sickness?