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Day 36: A Thankful Heart

Day 36. A Thankful Heart

Adapted from Psalm 138: I give You thanks with all my heart; I sing praises to You before the gods, I bow down …and give thanks to Your name for Your loving kindness and Your truth; You have magnified Your promise according to all who call upon Your name. On the day I called, You answered me. You made me bold with strength in my soul…though I walk in the midst of trouble, You revive me. You stretch forth Your hand to save me. You accomplish what concerns me because Your love lasts forever. I claim this promise in the name of Jesus. Amen.

When I read this prayer each year, the challenge is real: how could I ever thank God enough for all of the blessings I have received? However, the larger question comes quickly when I ask, “How can I, as one human being, help people who are suffering?” How do we explain the complexity of seeing both human degradation (the killing of innocent people) and human inspiration (those who love and care for others) side by side? It makes my heart cry out and ask, “Why?” One of our Lenten Study participants asked yesterday: “Why does the same God that I trust and that many of those victims trusted to guide us, to answer our prayers for peace and love, tolerate this behavior of one man and his followers who do not respect much less love those they slay?” This diametrical dilemma reminds me of visiting the Nazi camps in Poland with my Seminary Class and asking God “How did this happen?”

The only thing that helps me with this question if to reread Viktor Frankl’s In Search of the Meaning of Life. Listen to his description of people released from the camps:

“Apart from the moral deformity resulting from the sudden release of mental pressure, there were two other fundamental experiences which threatened to damage the character of the liberated prisoner: bitterness and disillusionment when he returned to his former life.” (Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning, p. 91.)

Frankl goes on to say, “What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life— daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks, which it constantly sets for each individual.” (pp. 76-77).

In this most Holy Week, as we finish our Lenten Journey, will we ask, what life expects from us? We cannot eradicate evil on our own, but we can combat bitterness and disillusionment. If you have not read, In Search for the Meaning of Life, this might be a good time to examine it. I found it to be both deeply disturbing and equally inspirational. The ability to choose, the freedom to embrace God’s image in us, and the ability to seek out that image in the other is a gift from God for which I am most thankful. I would adjust Frankl’s question slightly, with deep humility, and ask, “What does God expect of me?” Which causes me to harken back to, “Why did God make me?” And that is “to know, love and serve God in this world and the next.”

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