Friday, November 29, 2013

Can We Stop With the First World Problems?

"How To Cultivate A (Truly) Grateful Heart"

Why aren't I more grateful?  This is a thought that has been pounding in my head lately.  Why aren't I more grateful?  What's up with all the first world problems?

While prepping for a camping trip in mid-September, the temperatures dropped.   I threw a hissy-fit and pouted for the first few hours
... while 600,000 American families are homeless (Holiness Revolution Ch. 2).

I burned my grilled cheese two weeks ago and cried about it
...while I've never been hungry or thirsty for an entire day, 1.1 billion people have inadequate access to water around the world (Holiness Revolution Ch. 2).

I'm annoyed that my company hired someone for a full-time position that I'm perfectly capable of doing
...while almost half the world lives in severe poverty, living on less than $2 a day (Holiness Revolution Ch. 2)

Now, I'm not saying we don't have a need to express our frustrations and vent about situations that are less than perfect, but we are obliged to move beyond those points.  How can I, Trista, cultivate a truly grateful heart?  The secret seems to be the same one for most of the Christian life: will it and let God work in you and through you.  If we learn to be grateful for the small things, we'll more easily be prepared to remain grateful during the trying times. For me, I know I need to stop focusing on the first world problems and open my eyes to the first world blessings.

In Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta," I've found many challenges and inspirations from this holy woman.  She reminds me over and over again that I need to constantly surrender myself to the Lord.  "Keep the joy of Jesus as your strength," she murmurs.  "Accept whatever He gives - and give whatever He takes with a big smile - you belong to Him."  Mother Teresa experienced intense union with God when she heard the call to form the Missionaries of Charity.  Afterwards, for almost the rest of her life, she felt a deep absence from God, spiritual dryness, and interior sufferings, which in time she realized was the experience of Christ Crucified.  She knew real, intense suffering, but day in and day out, she vowed to smile at God, to smile at Him in the poorest of the poor, and to offer her whole self with joy.  "Whenever I see someone sad," Mother Teresa said, "I always think, she is refusing something to Jesus."

And, she adds, "God still loves the world through you and through me."  The blessings I've received are for me, yes, but they're for others, too.  In the Christian life, we're not called to be hoarders.  As good stewards, we need to accept all gifts in thanksgiving and strive to be Christ-serving instead of self-serving.  In our warm home, I can invite our neighbors in for comfort and community.  I can share my gift of faith with teens as a catechist.  When a surprise financial boon lands in our lap, we can save some of it, but we should share with others who are in need.  I can serve the Lord in the lonely and needy in our nation.  If we stop our self-absorption, we'd see the myriad ways we can serve the Lord by serving others.  

The key to cultivating a grateful heart?  "He must increase; I must decrease (John 3:30)."  So the next time you're experiencing a first world problem, do like Mother Teresa says:  smile at God and look for Him in that moment.

"I can do only one thing, like a little dog follow closely the Master's footsteps.  Pray that I be a cheerful dog."  
- Mother Teresa to Fr. Picachy, her spiritual director


  1. Love this :) I too have been wondering "Why aren't I more grateful?!?" and I like your thoughts... our #firstworldproblems really tend to be not being grateful for all the wonderful things in our lives.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I am trying to grow a grateful heart this year.

  2. So beautiful as we head into a seasons celebrating gratefulness and preparing for Advent. Who better than Mother Teresa to encourage and inspire us on a life of gratitude and joy??