“I feel so blessed.”
Those four words, seemingly so humble, so full of gratitude, sent up to God by those who utter them, must be handled like a live hand grenade, with great care.
Here’s why: They have an explosive secondary side and effect, a side and effect that sometimes blast deeply into the hearts and minds and wounds of those who wish they could state the same.
Nothing wrong with being thankful for the good things that happen in life.
What isn’t so good is shouting it to the ward, or to the world, to others who may not be so fortunate to have God’s same favors poured out and over them.
There are countless examples of expressed gratitude turned into a swinging hammer:
People who praise the Lord for helping them heal from a potentially devastating and deadly disease or from an awful accident, sometimes in a miraculous manner; folks who yell their believed divine advantages from the mountaintops after fighting and surviving their way through catastrophe; individuals who get an unlikely promotion at work; a father whose daughter is spared from the damage of a would-be tragic fall; a mother whose son remarkably lived through a head-on collision; a football player who triumphantly gives the credit for his game-winning touchdown catch to the Almighty.
The problem with turning up the volume in any case of “God helped me” is that not everyone gets that help — if that’s the way the grateful want to view it.
There’s the poor soul who didn’t survive the devastating and deadly disease or the awful accident, who didn’t make it through the catastrophe, who didn’t get the job or live through the fall or the head-on collision, who got beat defending against the game-winning TD toss.
I’ve always seen a player who kneels in the end zone to pray after a touchdown straight in the face of a defender or who praises Jesus after a win as the most egregious form of smack talk. One thing that’s worse than getting beaten by an opponent is getting beaten by an opponent who says God helped him beat you.
It’s not all that difficult — at least it shouldn’t be — to keep in mind those who didn’t supposedly gain God’s great favor in a specific way and to remember that one person’s triumph could be another person’s trouble. One person’s heavenly pinnacle is another’s hellish pain.
The turn of outward gratitude in those cases transforms into the turn of outward grief.
It’s one of the great ironies built into a faithful existence — that the same praise from those who consider themselves blessed from on high can be poison for those who aren’t so specifically blessed.
I sat in a Latter-day Saint testimony meeting in which one congregant whose wife had recovered from an illness that might have been terminal stood and thanked God for her recovery and the huge manifestation of love it was from the heavens for him and his family. He said that manifestation had bolstered his faith and his testimony — one more substantiation that God is aware of and directly involved in the details of our lives. In that same moment, I looked over at the tortured face of a woman in that same congregation who had lost her beloved husband to one of the health monsters of our time just a few weeks earlier.
That’s when “I feel so blessed” morphed from a humble expression to a verbal jab to the forehead of someone who wasn’t feeling so blessed.
Gratitude is a tricky business, then, maybe not when it’s held close to the heart and sent via private prayer and action to the Lord of Hosts. That’s well and good. But, rather, when it’s openly communicated to a community filled with humans who try to be as thankful as they can but who suffer the effects of not being blessed in the same way, to the same extent others believe they are blessed.
Next time you want to tell a congregation or a social media following how blessed and fortunate you feel, that God really does watch over the righteous, that God is watching over you and yours, think about the less blessed, the less fortunate, the ones who are righteous and who also are favored by God, but who are left to suffer still.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.