Do Roses Have Thorns, or Do Thorns Have Roses?

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.” Alphonse Karr

Thankfulness is very much in vogue these days. Much has been made of the positive affects of gratitude. Not a day goes by on these various social media platforms that I do not see someone espousing the benefits of a thankful outlook.

A friend of mine has even started a hashtag on Twitter, #gratefuldaily, and it seems to be catching on: he simply says one thing that he’s thankful for and follows it up with #gratefuldaily. I think this is a wonderful kind of routine to have in a world where so much seems to go so wrong. There is something life-giving about this constant turning from disappointment towards thankfulness.

But I’ve noticed that much of the thankfulness in the world resembles the prayers of my children. “And thank you God that Mommy made my favorite food tonight,” or “Thank you God that I got to play Wii today.” Not that there’s anything wrong with the prayers of a child – more of us should pray with the fervor and sincerity with which little ones naturally overflow.

But there is another level to giving thanks, an even more powerful stage of gratefulness that we often fall short of. So many times we limit our spirit of gratefulness to those things that make sense to us, right now, as being good things. A raise. A new house. The health of our children. In the midst of lives that often feel chaotic and out of our control, we desperately seek for, and appreciate, the things that are going according to plan.

And while being grateful for these simple things will have a positive affect on our lives, we miss out on the transforming power of thankfulness when we confine it to the good that we understand, right here, right now.

In fact, one of the most important aspects of the Christian faith involve this belief in Redemption, and not just in the Redemption brought about by the death of the Son, but an everyday Redemption that will transform the very core of us. But like THE Redemption, our every day Redemptions also require every day deaths. Disappointment. Displeasure. Pain.

Henri Nouwen writes:

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives-the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

* * * * *

Incarnation. Death. Resurrection. Redemption. The four most basic elements of the Christian world view. But what do we know of the everyday sort of redemption?

A simple definition of redemption is to recover ownership of by paying a specified sum.

Could it be that we can regain ownership of the painful parts of our lives by paying the difficult price of gratitude? Could it be that by finding something about that pain for which we are thankful, we could recover something that was lost?

Have you ever been able to find something to be thankful for in the midst of pain or disappointment? Did that small act of gratefulness make a difference?

3 Replies to “Do Roses Have Thorns, or Do Thorns Have Roses?”

  1. Oh my, what a powerful piece and some great insight. I’ve definitely never been a fan of the “praise him for the bad” kind of thing, but you’ve got me thinking big time about that.

    Thanks, as always, for the swift kick.

  2. Good read, Shawn. I have found it difficult sometimes to be grateful for those not-so-good episodes of life, the thorns. However this last year I have come to gain a perspective on it. I am grateful for the outcomes and the many ways God showed Himself in control. He came to my rescue many times. having said that, while I am thankful in retrospect I don’t want to do those things again.

    I still need work but thankfully He is willing to keep working.

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