Now is a good time to be a contrarian.
When others are wringing their hands over financial woes, worrying about who gets elected president, and blaming people right and left of the Right and the Left for these sad times, people of faith should go maverick (not to be taken politically).
Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world, has used this theory for investing. He has just put $5 billion and $3 billion into financially troubled Goldman Sachs and General Electric, respectively. These companies are on the ropes, which is just when Buffett thinks it’s time to get into the ring. (Of course, company management has to be worthy of the investment.) It is also a general philosophy of life for him: When everyone else is fearful, be bold; when everyone else is bold, be fearful.
Now is the time for bold faith. The season of Thanksgiving looms beyond the horizon of election frenzy and market whimsy. Will you be thankful when the day comes, or will you gobble your turkey with a sour scowl?
The wry-witted British journalist and novelist of the last century, G.K. Chesterton, once said: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Pause there and parse that out. If thanks are the highest form of thought, then why should we aim lower? St. Paul said: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things … and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9).
The higher the thought, therefore, the closer to God; and the closer to God, the closer to peace. The great Apostle said these words in the context of difficult and trying times. Spiritual wisdom often works counter to conventional wisdom.
So how do you get to a thankful heart? The second part shows the way. If gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder, then ask yourself what are the true sources of happiness, and allow yourself to wander into wonder over them.
Wonder takes you deeper into things than simply looking or listening. In the memorable “Sound of Music” scene with the Von Trapp children huddled together during a thunderstorm, Sister Maria listed a few of her favorite things when she was sad or scared. Singing about them deepened the joy and moved the mood.
In her novel “Change of Heart”, Jodi Picoult has a prison inmate confess to a priest his lack of faith this way: “’I don’t believe in God. I quit around the same time one of your esteemed colleagues told me that AIDS was my punishment for sinning.’ To be honest, he admitted to himself, I had split religion along the seam of secular and nonsecular; choosing to concentrate on the beauty of a Caravaggio without noticing the Madonna and child; or finding the best lamb recipe for a lavish Easter dinner, without thinking about the Passion.” That strategy only takes him halfway to thanks, because it stops the wondering on the surface of things.
Wonder looks into something, not just at something. Wonder sees the face of God in the face of a child, and it finds in a child’s laughter the freedom and favor of the God in whose image and likeness the child is made. It doubles happiness that way by driving it back to its source — the God who is the giver of all good gifts.
Try the same thing when you spot an act of kindness, a sign of goodness, a deed of justice, a gift of mercy, a lump of friendship or a dollop of love. This is the way you think about these things.
And when you do, your heart will sweep away gloom and make room for gratitude.
George Mason is pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church. The Worship section is a regular feature underwritten by Advocate Publishing and by the neighborhood business people and churches listed on these pages. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.