Thankful for Dissatisfaction | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 8

Generally in the job search process, I have tried to remain positive, but it’s very difficult.  There is so little I can control, and what I can control is unrewarding.  My days are a monotonous cycle of work with little return.  Sure, I get the occasional interview, but what good is an interview if I don’t get the job?

I find that I am remarkably unsatisfied… my work feels meaningless… there are thousands of hurting people out there I could be helping right now… and instead I’m sitting in my living room, filling out application after application with no results, just to feed myself and pay for an apartment?  Chores and meals feel like a waste of time too.  I know I need to eat, and do laundry, and clean my bathroom, but that’s an hour or two or five I could have devoted to the search, and maybe those hours could have been what I needed to be employed now.  Keeping in touch with family and friends is easier than it used to be as a crazy busy college student, but I also feel like I can’t be the sister, daughter, friend I want to be because I’m strapped for money, worried about becoming a burden, and slowly losing every bit of confidence I used to have in myself and my talents because I’ve tried my best, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

And then I turn to my Bible, and remember everything IS meaningless…

without God.

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”, observes Solomon in Ecclesiastes.  “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”

Solomon goes on to examine all of the things that might give a man satisfaction… riches, fame, eating and drinking, hard work, but decides that “all is vanity and a striving after wind”.  So, turns out even if I had a job, it would still be meaningless.

His final conclusion, though, is not the bleak reality one would expect.  Rather, he says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, ESV).

All is vanity and a striving after wind, until we acknowledge that we were designed to live as servants of the Lord on high, our creator and life-giver.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17).

I’m so unsatisfied with my earthly life right now… I hate job searching, and I hate feeling useless, but I am thankful for the way God is using my dissatisfaction here to find my satisfaction in Christ and Christ alone.

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup.  You make my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:5)

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

Thankful for Tears | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 7

I read the news.

I know, that probably doesn’t seem like a blog-worthy bit of information, but hear me out.  I read the news, and I cried for the first time in months.

I could go on a rant about how I shouldn’t have read the news, because it’s all so negative, and that’s the worst thing to do while you are already in a delicate frame of mind, but actually, I was thankful.  It was a relief, in one way, just because I hadn’t felt that emotional release for so long, and in another way, because it meant that I wasn’t so callous to the news negativity that I didn’t feel anything.  Pain, even excruciating pain can be difficult to endure, but apathy must not be.

It reminds me of that old Three Days Grace song… “I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all”.  Those lyrics used to leave me a little sad.  Where must a person be in life to actually desire pain?  But as I consider the alternative, I realize that some part of it makes a good deal of sense.  As one commentator I read today observed of the recent shooters in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, the gunmen are not usually wild, raging men wielding firearms.  They are emotionless, cold killers who murder six-month-olds as easily as swatting an annoying fly, and perhaps with even less interest.

I don’t want to be a part of that apathy.  No matter how many times I hear of these tragedies, I want to feel it, really feel it, and grieve with those who have lost their loved ones.  I don’t want to be caught up in the crowd of hungry gossipers, waiting to tear like scavengers at the details of every ghastly attack, snatching at sound bites like the seagulls of Finding Nemo, crying “mine! Mine! Mine!”, hoping to prove some political point or other, quickly forgetting that there are children without parents, parents without children, and siblings without brothers or sisters.  Of course policy is important, but when we leap immediately to political debate, I think in one way we join the emotionless killer in his apathy.

That is why today, I am thankful for tears.

Thankful for the Opportunity to Be Thankful | 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 1

I have been looking for a job for over six weeks now.  As many likely can attest, six weeks of job searching is equivalent to six weeks of anxiety, repeated rejection, self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, impatience, frustration, and a whole host of other things I could list.  I thought it was about time I started focussing on the positives a bit more habitually.  It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts like,

“What happens next?”

“Why isn’t this working?”

“I’m not good enough.”

“How can I improve?”

“Am I ever going to be successful?”

But every time I voice those thoughts, I am met with the same response.

“You’ve just gotta keep plugging away.”

Yes, that’s all there is to do, and in the meantime, I could probably boost my productivity in that endeavor with a more positive, more God-centered outlook.

To that end, I intend to use this November, as many do, as an opportunity for me to reflect on the things for which I am thankful, or, as Paul puts it:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

Tonight, I’m thinking about how thankful I am for the opportunity to be thankful.  No matter how dark the day, I always have the opportunity to turn my thoughts to these things, these noble, lovely things, illuminated in the shadows by the light of Christ.  There could be any number of anxieties, terrors, tragedies, and yet Jesus remains, and every good and perfect gift is from his hand, and meant to turn me to him.

Praise Jesus that even when there are storms, there is the rush of rain to lull me to sleep, and the flash of lightening to dazzle my eyes.  Praise him that even in the midst of fire, there is the brilliant color and the exhilarating dance of flames.  Praise him that when I am jobless, I have the time to be with my guide dog, brother, and roomies, work on creative projects, explore my city, try new hobbies, study God’s word, and be grateful for it all.

And so here begins a journey of gratitude in a time of trial.  Wherever you are in life, I hope it will prove encouraging for both of us.

A Second Journey: Answers on the Street: Last Thursday Afternoon

Thursday afternoon, we had a table set up in a park a few blocks away from the Glasgow church, covered in Gospel literature of all varieties — different sources, challenges, and entire Bibles as well. One of the team stayed behind at the table to engage anyone that stopped by, and the rest of us dispersed about the area to talk to passers by. My partner and I grabbed a stack of tracts and remaining invitations to the Q and A that night.
We took a busy stretch of sidewalk across from the park and our main table. Sadly, we didn’t get many people interested in discussion. It was mostly, “Hello, would you like one?” and handing them an invitation before they could say no. There were a few “I’m not religious”, “I’m an atheist.”, plus several mocking comments, but nothing substantial. The most interesting part came later, just before the Q and A session began.
It was 30 minutes before the scheduled starting time, and our Glasgow leadership sent us out after dinner for a quick second round of community outreach and handing out invitations. We handed one man a leaflet and he looked down at it, reading over the content.
“Is this about the Bible?” He asked.
We answered that yes, it would be an open Q and A where you could ask any questions about the Bible, God, or Christianity in general. He nodded.
“I have questions.” He muttered, almost to himself, but then he continued. He told us about his best friend, who died young years ago. The pain of the loss caused him to question quite a few things, namely the purpose of human suffering and of life in general. It seemed our conversation was stiring up some of those questions again. Disturbed by their reemergence, he moved to leave, but I called after him, pointing out that the Q and A would be a wonderful place to start looking for answers to these old quandaries, and said we would be happy to walk with him there now if he liked.
We asked whether he had ever found solutions. He responded that no, he hadn’t. He just accepted that that’s the way life was… tragedy happens, and the best thing one can do is to live life to the fullest, be good and work hard.
“So you think this life is it?” My partner wondered, “THere’s nothing else after?”
“Yeah,” He said, sadly, “I think this is pretty much all there is.”
It didn’t sound convincing to me, and I don’t think he was convincing himself either. We encouraged him to come to the meeting a third time, but he refused. He couldn’t think about it, he said, the questions. They were too painful, and our probing had brought up all the grief from his loss all over again. He did stay to get our names, and we asked whether he would mind if we prayed for him. He seemed touched at this, and requested that we please do.
It was another apparently empty, but strangely encouraging conversation. Knowing the questions he did have, and hearing the pain in his voice, I was heart broken that he still would not come along to the meeting… Even so, I knew that it was a fruitful exchange in that he has, at least, started asking those questions again, and maybe if he continues, he can find some true answers this time.