I often find it amusing when it is lashing rain and someone says to me, ‘isn’t it an awful day?’ And I say, ‘yes it is, thank God’. I usually get a weird look that says, ‘what do you mean ‘thank God’?’ But why should we not thank God just because it is raining? The rain may not suit us always, the sun may not suit others always, but that’s no reason not to give thanks to God for it. It is a gift from him, like many other things, even if it doesn’t suit us.
We tend to see our world or universe as being the center of things, often with God as an optional extra as it were; someone on the outside. However, it is in fact the other way around. God is at the center of things and we are the optional extra. We were created by God and we need not be here. Now you might think that that makes us pretty small and insignificant in many ways. Well it does. We are. We like to think of ourselves as extremely important, especially the higher up we get in the world. But the fact is we are all the exact same with the same need for God. Once we begin to recognise this it actually makes life a lot easier because it takes a lot of pressure off us. The world doesn’t depend on us alone to save it. The future of the human race isn’t being sustained by me alone. The people of Galway aren’t depending on me as a priest to say the right thing, to make sure they all get to heaven and it’s just as well!
The governments today often talk about their decisions as though they themselves were God, as though the future of the human race was solely in their hands. Fortunately for us all it is not. We are important of course, and we certainly have a big responsibility to do the right thing in the world and to make sure that there is a good future for those who come after us, but the Lord God of heaven and earth is also there helping us. So we have a lot to be thankful for.
At the moment we are living in a time when we are hearing almost nothing but bad news, how awful everything is and how little hope there is. It is very hard not to be affected by it when we are getting this from the news on an hourly basis, not to mention all the chat shows. By their nature news programs tend to dwell on bad and dramatic news, but I think it is important for us not to let that be the main influence on the way we think, or we will begin to see the world as a very dark place. Sure we are in harder times and there are plenty of problems, but the fact is that most of us are surviving. I would imagine that everyone here has enough to eat, has a roof over their heads at night. We probably have a car to get around in and we are probably able to provide for our children, even if it is not as lavish as we would like. The truth is we have an awful lot to be grateful for.
When I find myself becoming negative and wishing things were better—and believe me I complain just as much as anyone!—I find it a great help to start giving thanks to God for as many things as possible. In the morning I say, ‘thank you Lord for a good night’s rest; thank you for a hot shower and a breakfast to eat. Thank you that I have decent clothes to wear and enough money in my pocket to survive. Thank you for the friends I have and also for the people I don’t like. I also try not to listen to too many news programs during the day as they tend to get me down. Remember that all of the things we listen to during the day do affect how we think and how we see the world.
Think for a moment about the teachings of Jesus during his life on earth. They are very positive, very encouraging and very compassionate. Even when he spoke about the end of the world and the disciples said, ‘when will this happen?’ He basically said, ‘don’t worry about that. It doesn’t concern you.’ The Lord asks us to do our best to love and serve while we are here on earth. Then when our time is complete He will bring us home to be with him. That makes it very simple. We just do our best and try to stay focused on the one who gives us life and gives us everything we have.
So maybe the next time you want to ask God’s help for something in prayer, and rightly so, take a moment first to thank God for the many things He has given you and then ask for your needs. And maybe even thank God for the rain the next time it’s lashing and you’re about to get soaked!
‘In the world you will have trouble. But do not be afraid, I have overcome the world.’