A couple years ago a friend sent me a link to an article (which I can’t find now) about the virtues of thinking each day of three good things that had happened. She and I decided to try it together, e-mailing each other our list of three every evening. I was surprised to find that on all but the most challenging days I could find at least three pleasures, even as small as “I enjoyed my cheeseburger at lunch,” and recalling them actually relieved some of the day’s pressures. But optimism never swelled in me, as the article promised, and I started to lose interest. I think my friend did, too, because our e-mails became intermittent and then stopped.
One of the themes of Ecclesiastes is, “Life is difficult, so enjoy the good things God gives you while you have them.” The book calls out several good things – spouses, children, youth, food, drink. The more I encountered that theme as I studied Ecclesiastes late last year, the more I thought about the aborted three-good-things exercise. I decided to give it another try – but this time, I would tell my three daily things to God, since he gave them to me.
In these prayers I soon found myself grateful to God for each day’s good things. Moreover, I started to see that God was there with gifts on every single day, and the more difficult the day, the more subtle – but sublime – the gifts. I started to feel like a child on Easter morning looking for hidden eggs.
Last Thursday I was driving home from a trip to Brown County with my sons when my car’s transmission started to whine, pop, and grind. I wasn’t sure the car would get us home, and we had 50 miles to go. I was worried about being stranded and about the repair bill. But I also felt the breeze softly touching my skin through my open window and enjoyed the long shadows the trees and cornfields cast onto the highway in the afternoon sun. As the car rolled with the highway through the old farm towns, my sons and I sang along with the CD playing. I really enjoyed the drive even though the car occasionally popped out of gear. Not long ago, I would have experienced and remembered only the worry. Looking for God’s daily gifts has made me more receptive to them when they come. And knowing that there are daily gifts takes some sting out of the difficulties. My mechanic just called to say the transmission is fried, and that it will cost upwards of $3,000 to replace it. I’m sure God has hidden a gift even in this.