Living in Joy & Gratitude while Engaging Real Suffering

Two predominant thoughts were on my mind this morning: the difficult challenges and suffering in our world in recent weeks, and the day we will set aside to give thanks to God in a few days. The two may seem contradictory, but they are not. They were not contradictory for Jesus. They were not contradictory for the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving. They were not contradictory for the author G.K. Chesterton.

To make a difference in our world, it’s vital that we learn to live in the tension – touching real, felt pain and suffering while being transformed, delighted, and strengthened by a life of deep gratitude and worship of God.

Chesterton, born in London in 1874, foresaw and wrote about the issues we struggle with in today’s society – issues like social injustice, the culture of death, assaults on religion, and attacks on family and human dignity. While he looked squarely at the social issues of his day and addressed them without holding back, his life was characterized by a sense of wonder and enjoyment of creation that led him to deep gratitude to God.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton.

Although Chesterton never completed college, he was a prolific author who wrote with wit and candor. He was one of the greatest writers of his time because he was a great thinker. His books Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man are considered some of the 20th century’s finest works of Christian apologetics. The Everlasting Man led a young atheist, C.S. Lewis, to become a Christian. Besides his enormous intellect, he was playful and curious, possessing the wonder of a child in his rotund figure, often draped in a cape, and topped with wild, ginger hair under a crumpled hat.

Chesterton was awed by the world around him.

He said, “Here dies another day during which I have had eyes, ears, hands, and the great world around me. And with tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?” His heart, inclined to wonder, was about to discover God. Of Chesterton’s conversion, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. said: “It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular . . . It’s a little like being married in general.”

He found his way to the Father’s lavish banquet because of his desire to thank whoever was responsible for the wonder of this world. No doubt, God pursued him, and his curious, God-given intellect led him to an obstinate joy that caused him to celebrate the goodness of God everywhere – even while he deftly addressed complex problems in society and the heart of man. He blasted the Third Reich’s race theories, spoke out vehemently against eugenics, and mocked the idea that poverty was a result of bad breeding. His understanding of God, the God of justice and reconciliation, informed his views on social issues.

When we look at injustice and suffering in the world today, will we turn to God who offers the only lasting solution? This involves repentance for our part in the problem. A newspaper once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” and Chesterton responded,

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,” ― G.K. Chesterton

When we as humanity fall short of the way God intends us to live, will we allow God to change us as we become fully alive through gratitude for His unwavering goodness, love, and kindness?

When we humbly turn to Him, we enter in to the solution. By God’s grace, we can love and serve our neighbors. We can help heal pain. We can speak truth when we encounter injustice and hope to those who suffer from it.

May we take a moment during our festivities to pray for our broken world. And may God transform our hearts with joy and gratitude so that we can reach out to those who suffer – even across racial, religious, and socio-economic divides. May we turn to Jesus who reconciles man to God, and man to man.

“If a man came up to us (as many will soon come up to us) to say, ‘I am a new kind of man. I am the super-man. I have abandoned mercy and justice’; we should answer, ‘Doubtless you are new, but you are not nearer to the perfect man, for he has been already in the mind of God. We have fallen with Adam and we shall rise with Christ . . .” – G.K. Chesterton

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