I was taking a walk with my mother, who was feeling down. “I’m so sick of being old,” she said. And her kitchen was too small, and she couldn’t read her novels anymore, and walking was laborious, and she mainly slept the day away—a list of complaints fairly aligned with Ecclesiastes 12:1-8.
Having recently visited a low-end nursing home to see a former neighbor, I replied to my mother that it could be worse: She could have a narrow slip of space for a bed and all her earthly possessions. Instead, she has a spacious bedroom with a balcony and three other rooms to knock around in for variety.
She could share a room with a chattering magpie from whom she was separated by only a drawn curtain. Or her roommate could have the television on all day, and set to those inane talk shows with forced audience laughter, where the topic is who’s cheating on whom in Hollywood. Instead she has her own room, and it is absolutely quiet and peaceful, the way she likes it.
She could be eating what they decide she should eat (beige food) rather than making her wonderful leek and potato soups. She could be in a second-floor apartment rather than on the first floor. She could have a living room facing north, but hers faces the sunny south. She could be in a lot of pain, but she is not. She could have a bad husband, but my father is very good to her. Plus a half hour ago I put fresh corn and preservative-free apple cider on her kitchen table from a local farm.
I saw my mother brighten by degrees as I pointed out the undesirable could-have-beens and the happy realities of her present life. We started praying as we walked, and by the time we got back home, my mother was considerably lighter in spirit. The Lord says:
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
And He commands this because thanksgiving is His due, but also because He knows it is good for our soul and sense of well-being. The moral of this story is not that happiness is relative but that the doorway into it is through voiced gratitude to God for every blessing of His we can think of in the midst of our brief sufferings.