There is a saying that good things come in small packages. There is some truth to this. Often it is the little things which make life pleasant. A kind word, the laugh of a child, the sound of someone singing, a ray of sunshine peeking from behind a cloud – all these things can lift the heart and bring a smile to our lips. A friendly touch, a note of appreciation, the greeting of a neighbor can lighten our entire day.
Suppose that you hosted a huge, elaborate and expensive party for no reason but to show your love and appreciation for your friends and family. What would your reaction be if none of the people you invited came? Suppose that that instead of thanking you for your invitation your friends and relatives responded with insults and abused the messengers you sent to deliver the invitation? Would you not feel disappointed? Would you not feel that they had betrayed your friendship? Would you not be angry? Would you not wish to take revenge?
It is easy to complain. In fact, most of us are rather good at it. If something happens which we don’t like we usually have a few choice words to say about it.
Conversely, we tend to take our blessings for granted. Instead of being grateful for the good things we have and the good things which happen to us, we think of them as something we deserve. In turn, this kind of thinking kills gratitude. Who is thankful for things which are his by right?
Do you ever find it difficult to forgive someone? If we are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that sometimes it is hard to forgive.
One situation in which it is hard to forgive is when the person has a whole history of doing things which hurt us. It is not so much what he has done – in fact it may be quite trivial. But the reason we find it hard to forgive is that there seems to be little improvement. He has repeatedly done the same thing in the past. He has recognized his fault. His sorrow and regret for what he has done seems genuine. He has asked for our forgiveness. We have forgiven him time after time – only to have him do the same thing again. Each time it becomes a little harder to forgive because we start to wonder about his sincerity. And, even if he is sincere in his repentance, how many times are we to forgive?
At times life can be very difficult. Trouble can come in many different forms and from many different directions. Nor do troubles always come one at a time. It can seem that everything and everyone is conspiring against us at the same time. In the case of the prophet Job, his children died, he lost all his possessions, his wife told him to curse God and die, his health failed and his friends made false accusations against him.
For many of us life is very busy. Our days are filled with activities. It seems that there is no time to do everything which must be done. It is very easy to fall behind.
Not only that, but it seems that life is getting much faster than it used to be. In previous generations, if we needed to speak with someone we had to go to their house or their place of business. Now we communicate at the speed of light over the telephone, email or the Internet. Similarly, in many cases we no longer have to wait if we wish to obtain something. We can often get what we want – whether it is information or a product of some sort – by going online.
Sometimes we become so busy living life that we forget what the purpose of life is. We forget that life isn’t about things. We forget that we need time for contemplation. Instead, we wear ourselves out dashing from one activity to another or madly scrambling to get yet another thing.
Solomon once wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV) It is true that we get upset when life doesn’t conform to our expectations. We certainly don’t like it when someone promises us something, but we have to wait for him to fulfill his promise. For example, our promotion is delayed because of unexpected business pressure, or the cure for our illness takes longer than the doctor thought. If it takes too long for our hopes to be realized, we even begin to doubt the sincerity of the person who made the promise.
Have you ever had an insight which suddenly enabled you to understand something which was a mystery to you before? Sometimes these insights are so radical and satisfying that it is like receiving new sight. We were blind, but now we can see. Our perspective is totally different than it was before.
Unfortunately, it may not be so easy to get others to see the same as we now do. The truth may now be clear to us; the solution to a problem may now be obvious; the answer to a dilemma may now be absolutely plain – but others are unable or unwilling to accept it. While we see, they remain blind.
For most of us, life is not easy. Since we are not the recipients of inherited wealth, we have to work for our livings. Many of us earn our bread by hard labor – or at tasks we do not particularly enjoy. Even those of us who do enjoy our work are often faced with problems and situations in our work which are not enjoyable. From time-to-time, almost everyone experiences illness or poor health. All of us go through times of heartache and grief because of the loss of loved ones. All of us encounter disappointment.
Even though all of these things are a normal part of life, they take a toll on us. It is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to lose heart. It is easy to let the disappointments and sorrows of life wear us down. It is easy to question our own worth.
Would it be better to be a dog or a lion? Most people would probably say it would be better to be a lion. Why? Because in many cultures lions are associated with royalty. We call them “the king of the jungle.” We consider them stately, noble and courageous. Many well-born families use the lion as a symbol of their household.
In contrast, some cultures regard dogs as “unclean” animals. A common perception is that they are dirty, smelly, mangy and noisy. Besides, they eat their own vomit.