Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do we need the bitter to appreciate the sweet?

What if life was always good? A life where everything always turned out well? What kind of people would we be if we lacked nothing, knew no frustration, difficulties or heartbreak? One would hope the answer would be 'contented, happy and fulfilled people'. But would we be?

We are amazing creatures. Our capacity to adapt is phenomenal. Not that adapting to new situations and circumstances is enjoyable – for the most part change fills us with fear and can be very traumatic. But if we're to survive we have to adapt, and so we do. Surprisingly quickly our new situation can become the norm – for better or worse. So where there is an injury, the whole body compensates. Where there is a change of income, the standard of living falls or rises. Of course some changes take weeks, months or even years to accept. Perhaps the loss of someone precious to us is one such example. But change and adapt we do.

If we happen to enjoy good health then when illness breaks that norm, we long to return to it, and for a short while appreciate our good health. When sleeping in an usual and uncomfortable bed, we long for and appreciate the comforts of home. When friends reject us or let us down we find a new appreciation for those who stay with us. It occurs to me that this runs like a thread throughout everything. When our employment, family, security, health, friendships, love or happiness is threatened we have that deep desire to see things return to the norm, to how things were, because suddenly we realise how good it was.

This of course is not just negative. Positively, where there is pain, it's removal brings relief and appreciation of our wellbeing. Where there is hunger, food never tastes so good. Where there is a broken relationship, reconciliation brings great joy. But without the negative can we really comprehend the positive? The negatives make us crave the positives, just as pain makes us desire its relief. And perhaps all these things are meant to drive us to the one who never fails, and in whom we are most fulfilled, God.

And so it is, that although no one likes to imagine themselves as ungrateful and no one desires trials or heartache... it is just possible that without the bitter things in life we might be unaware that perhaps we have adapted and accepted to a second-best norm. Pain, bitterness or heartache make us aware that things are not right, and may provide the impetus and desire to seek after that which is sweet. I don't think pain gives us meaning. That just seems perverse. But I think pain and problems can bring our focus to bear on the things that do have meaning, which we might not otherwise appreciate, and so cause us to treasure when we have them.

Count your blessings.

No comments:

Post a Comment