The Subtle Nature of Gratitude and Desire

“It is attachment to desire, not desire itself, that is the underlying cause of practically all of our pain and suffering.” – Rod Stryker

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12 NIV

“Most people’s lives are run by desire and fear.  Desire is the need to add something to yourself in order to be yourself more fully.  All fear is the fear of losing something and thereby becoming diminished and being less.  These two movements obscure the fact that Being cannot be given or taken away.  Being in its fullness is already within you now.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIV

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” – Philippians 4:11-12 ESV

I wonder how many of us this Thanksgiving Day are slightly unsettled – longing for a future filled with positive change and abundance versus being fully content with our current set of circumstances?  The cliché that “There’s always something to be thankful for!”  seems to fall far short of where you find yourself in the moment.

Why (especially on Thanksgiving) are we made to feel dreadfully sinful if we aren’t brimming with gratitude – fully content with all we currently possess or face in life?  How could it be possible for those suffering with sickness or lack to be satisfied?  What wrong with wanting more?  Shouldn’t we long for relationship versus loneliness or the freedom that comes with financial health versus the confinement and bondage of debt and liability?

Even the verse above from the Book of Psalms suggests that hope deferred is like an infectious disease of the heart – killing us ever slowly with a despair that lingers as long as the desire or need is left unmet.  It likens a “longing fulfilled” to a flourishing, stable “tree of life” – rooted in a form of satisfaction that produces good fruit and shades our being with abundance. 

There is a subtle nature to desire and longing.  Without it, dreams go unrealized and dormant, but with it comes a form of lack, emptiness, and dissatisfaction that cause undue suffering and discontentedness.

When we place ourselves in a constant state of longing, we are subconsciously feeding our minds the idea that what we currently possess isn’t enough.  We fortify emotions of vacuity and bolster feelings of deficiency.  We see ourselves and our lives falling far short of what they could be if our wants and needs were met.  This kind of attachment to our desires leads to tremendous suffering.

In the same fashion, there is a subtle nature to gratitude – a secret to the contentment that Paul describes in his letter to the Thessalonians.  It goes far beyond any simple cliché and far beyond the naivety of positive thinking.

Why?  Because there isn’t ALWAYS something to be thankful for on the surface.  In fact, life is often filled with events, situations, and circumstances that are devastating, debilitating, and ruinous.

The subtle secret to gratitude lies at the center of your belief system – a creed you hold about who God is and His sovereign rule over every small, intricate detail of your life.  It’s why His desire for us is to be thankful in all circumstances – having faith and trust His providential care is CONTINUALLY at work.  That faith and trust is the essence of gratitude – the secret to contentment and happiness regardless of what surrounds us.

It’s knowing the terminal illness is filled with loving purpose and timely intention – not an end but a new beginning.  It’s seeing a deeper connection in the loneliness, greater fortune within the scarcity, and a definitive clarity at the heart of your uncertainty.  It exudes confidence in times of waiting, a positive expectancy when dreams are delayed, and a sense of hope when there isn’t a trace of it to be found.

It’s an unabashed awareness that ALL our wants and desires are being CONTINUALLY met – not on human terms and by mortal definitions but in ways and means that surpass our finite minds and limited understanding.  It’s gratitude on the grandest of scales!  It knows that when it comes to God, lack is surplus, illness is wholeness, and emptiness is fullness.

The subtle nature of this kind of gratitude extinguishes the unhealthy forms of attachment we have to our desires.  It subconsciously feeds our minds with the idea that we are in CONSTANT POSSESSION of all we ever need or want.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you ponder the subtlety of your desires – seeing the difference between hopes and dreams and unhealthy desires and attachments that breed suffering and discontent.

In turn, I pray you look at the subtlety of gratitude – realizing it goes deeper and far beyond the Thanksgiving clichés and the simplicity of positive thinking.  I hope you see that it lies within the belief systems you hold about who God is and His loving purposes for your life.  That love is continually at work regardless of what you see or experience on the surface. 

It’s why you can realistically be thankful in all things my friend – good, bad, or indifferent.  Each one has purpose.  Each one is filled with love and intention.  Each one is controlled and directed by the Creator alone.

As a result, each one can be embraced with sincere gratitude my friend 😊

Happy Thanksgiving!

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