We often take things in life for granted. Even the most precious things in life, we take for granted. Food, shelter, the air we breathe, the family, health, and good life – these are precious things. Without these things, our existence is not conceivable. But often we take even these essential things in life for granted.
Dissatisfaction begins to arise within us when we start taking things for granted. When we take our food for granted, we want better food and when we don’t get the better food we want, we become dissatisfied.
Mary Jo Leddy said, in her book, “Radical Gratitude”
Our general dissatisfaction with ourselves, with others, and with the world is possible only as taking for granted becomes a habit of being.
In the wilderness
Don’t take things for granted. That was what the Israelites had to learn in the wilderness. They had to learn that they should take nothing for granted. Right from the beginning, everything was possible because of God’s goodness. Without God’s power, they could not escape from the hands of powerful Pharaoh. Without God’s miracle, they could not cross the Red Sea. Without God’s mercy, they could not have food or water in the wilderness. They had everything by God’s grace. They survived because of God’s goodness. They had to learn that lesson in the wilderness – “Don’t take things for granted.”
That was the whole point of their wilderness experience. God let them go through the wilderness experience not to make them suffer and make their lives miserable but to teach them this important and imperative lesson. That was what they needed to know to be able to survive life after this wilderness experience. That is what we need to survive our life – Don’t take things for granted.
Fleeing from the hands of Pharaoh was only the beginning. Being free from the hands of Pharaoh was not the end of their journey. Only the beginning. If the freedom was the beginning, then the abundant life was the end. God wanted them to live abundantly. Not just in material things for yourself but being rich in our soul, being generous to others and making others abundant. That is what our life ought to be. Wasn’t that what Jesus said?
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
As Mary Jo Leddy said, when taking things for granted becomes our habit, dissatisfaction seeps into our soul. When that happens, the problem is we don’t appreciate life any more. We don’t appreciate important things in life. We don’t appreciate the air we breathe. We don’t appreciate the beautiful flowers we smell. We don’t appreciate friends and family. We don’t appreciate life period.
That was what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness.
…the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ (Numbers 21:4, 5)
They didn’t appreciate all the things God did for them. Food God provided for them became the miserable food. They forgot about how God brought them out of Egypt. They forgot about how God led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night.
When we are filled with dissatisfaction, we forget. We forget how good life is. SPIRITUAL AMNESIA. That is the problem. We forget. We forget about all the good things we enjoy. We forget about how life turned out all right even in our difficult times. We forget about the beauty of life. We forget about people who were so good to us. WE SEE WHAT WE DON’T HAVE BUT WE DON’T SEE WHAT WE HAVE. WE SEE SCARCITY, BUT NOT ABUNDANCE. Nothing satisfies us. People just become more and more dissatisfied.
Living with Desire
We all have become modern Tantalus.
Tantalus is a guy in Greek mythology. He was a king but he was punished by his evil deed. His punishment was for him to stand in a pool of water. Whenever Tantalus would bend down to drink from the waters, waters would go down from him, whenever he reached up to take one of the luscious fruits, the branches would be moved away from him. The word tantalize came from that story.
Living with desire that can never be satisfied is a torture. When I look around, I see a lot of Tantalus. They are very unsatisfied. When nothing satisfies us, when we lose the appetite of life, we feel hopeless, helpless, angry, and even violent. This is not an abundant life. You may be free. You may be free from all sorts of bondage. You may be free from all kinds of restriction. But if we are not free from the desire that can never be satisfied, we won’t have an abundant life. When we are filled with dissatisfaction, complaints, and anger, we won’t be able to survive. Let alone the abundant life.
God wanted to train the Israelites not to take things for granted, not to forget but to appreciate things in life. Because that is the very basic thing that they had to have to live a good life. Not to complain about what they didn’t have, but to appreciate what they had. Not to fear the danger they faced but to trust God who delivered them from the danger. God knew that that was the way not only to survive but to live a good life.
Living with Gratitude
The opposite of taking things for granted is to live with gratitude. Gratitude is the secret of living a good life. The gratitude is our weapon, the most powerful weapon to defeat this false desire. Modern science finally caught up with this secret that God has taught us from long time ago. Scholars start talking about the importance of gratitude for happiness.
The word, gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude is the appreciation for the gift of life. It is to recognize the giftedness of life. We didn’t necessarily pay for all that. Life is not what we earned. Life is what is given to us as a gift. There have been so many people who have been good to us. They helped us. They supported us. They loved us. They even sacrificed for us. We are who we are not because of what we did. We are who we are because of what they did for us. Gratitude is to recognize that behind all this, there was good God and his grace. We are like those worker who came just one hour before the closing time and yet the owner gave them a full wage. God has been so good.
Life in God’s Hands
When we think that life is in our hands, we get stressed out. We worry and get tired. Because we have to figure out everything. We may be able to deal with life’s challenges relatively well but we will become negatively affected. Toxic emotions will fill our hearts. These toxic emotions jeopardize our relationships with others. They also make us very dark and impatient.
When we think that our life is in God’s control, we will be able to let go of the fear of control. We will work hard but we don’t have to think that everything depends on us. We can do our best and let go. Because we are in God’s good hands. God will take care of us. That was what God wanted to teach the Israelites. That was the only way they could survive as a small country surrounded by the super powers. That was the only way they could do what others could not do as people of God. As people of God, they had to overcome unsurmountable challenges of life. To do that, they needed to depend not just on themselves but on God.
With that attitude, we can be unshackled from toxic emotions. When we think that our life is in God’s good hands, we can have gratitude. It is to recognize grace, the giftedness of life. It is very important to live with this recognition. We have been so absorbed into us doing everything that we have forgotten how many good things came to us simply as gift.
Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we learned very clearly that we can take nothing for granted during this Covid period. The Prime Minister designated March 11 national day of observance for Canadians who died of COVID-19. Exactly a year ago last Thursday, WHO declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. We never thought that we could close the church, dining and shutting down the whole city. We never imagined that we could not even meet our family. No Christmas service in person, no Easter service in person. Unimaginable. We learned that we could never take anything for granted. Don’t ever forget that.
Now let us live with gratitude. Don’t let complaints, blames, and toxic emotions consume you. Gratitude is something that you have to practice and cultivate. Write gratitude journal. Set aside time to give prayer of thanksgiving. Write down what you are thankful every day. Be concrete. Be descriptive. Be mindful of things that you are thankful. Make sure you express your gratitude to those who have helped you. As you start living a life of gratitude, your soul will be lifted up. Heavy burdens will be lifted off from your shoulder. Your days will become brighter. Things will work out all right.