“Bryan,” people tell me, with a stern tone and a serious expression, “you should just be grateful. Period.” I’ve heard the same rhetoric countless times.
It’s that time of the year when pastors prepare sermons on being thankful. Sunday school lessons lead children in listing all the good things they have:
1) Your Mom
2) Your Dad
3) Good Health
And all of these things are good gifts God provides to make His power real to us and assist us in trusting Him. But, I often find myself thinking about everything I’m lacking. I’ll say to myself, “Bryan, you’re 31. When are you getting married?” Or, “Bryan, you have to make advances in your career!” Or, “Bryan, you don’t work out!” I always find a way to point out everything I don’t have and feel ungrateful. Then I’ll feel uneasy inside and a question come to my mind: “Why are you so ungrateful?”
In the years that I’ve walked with the Lord, I’ve come to believe that the reason I feel uneasy is partly because I am feeling ungrateful (which I need to repent of). But the bigger reason is that God, through the Holy Spirit, is not allowing me to find my satisfaction in the temporary things of this world. Similar to what the writer of Ecclesiastes felt after he made great allies, established Jerusalem as a world super power and could get anything he wanted at the snap of his fingers. When it was all said and done, he would look deep down inside of his heart and say:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
As I think about the meaninglessness of life, the Holy Spirt also reminds me that there’s a treasure which always leaves me satisfied and that’s Jesus! I’ve come to learn (and am still learning) that when my starting point for being grateful is what Christ has done for me, I can enjoy all of God’s gifts just a little more because they are not the goal in life, but rather, a means to an end.
So as you enjoy this Thanksgiving season, remember that Jesus is the prize and everything in this world is just a means or a reminder for helping us to love Him more.
Written by Bryan Hernandez
Illustration by Karam Byun