We got a triple sucker-punch from Mother Nature’s own “knockout game” in Colorado: a double dose of Dante’s Inferno with the Waldo Canyon fire and the Black Forest fire , and then Apocalyptic Floods the likes of which have never been seen, aptly called the “Thousand Year Flood.” Roads, towns, homes, livestock, property, pets, and people lost. This year we’ve been deluged with images ranging from charred, black foundations where life-long homes once stood, to flooded pastures strewn with drowned cows.
It’s not just the catastrophic Colorado weather, though. Eventually almost everyone will experience catastrophic illnesses, catastrophic episodes, catastrophic losses. Yet here we are at the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
For those of us who woke up today with our homes and lives intact, we have much to be thankful for. For those in the midst of catastrophes, not so much. For them, it’s perfectly sane to ask, “Why me?”
No one has the answer to “Why me?” But reflecting on things in our life for which to be grateful – even in the midst of calamity – is among the most healthy, life-affirming acts humans can do. It’s like a vaccine against a putrid evil. It’s like a miracle fertilizer for growing a spiritual outlook. Acts of gratitude are what we do because we suffer, almost like taking an antibiotic.
Suffering with gratitude ranks high in God’s mysteries, almost as high as living forever. It’s part of the ironic Christian calling to regard death and catastrophe as veils to the truth. Don’t believe what you see. Don’t. Christianity asserts that every person is going to live forever, period. And clearly, that is not what you see.
Here’s the good news about what you may not see in the midst of tragedy: people who consciously reflect on gratitude show an increase in joy, happiness, and life satisfaction (see Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness). In scientific psychological terms, this is a measurable phenomenon (and, naturally, there are those who take these data and try to apply them to increasing productivity in the work place, re: Shawn Achor in the Happiness Advantage).
Here’s more good news about this phenomenon. All you need to do is try it. Trying it is so much easier than believing deep in your heart that you and your loved ones never die. So try it. Try it like you are taking a new antibiotic to fight a chronic infection.
This new antibiotic combines with your mind and spirit’s natural defenses to kill those evil intruders. Do regular doses for two weeks and see if that nasty pus doesn’t start to clear up. It also has the pleasant side effect of causing unexpected growth in other parts of your psyche.