Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Looking at the big picture of our lives  

By Lorraine V. Murray, Commentary | Published February 7, 2022

We often forget how many things must go right for us to wake up each morning. Our hearts had to continue beating the entire night and our blood pressure had to remain at a safe level. We certainly didn’t choose these actions while we slept. Instead, God was watching over us.  

The light at the window means the sun rose again, something completely out of our control. The earth is still intact, which means no asteroids hit our planet during the night. Thank you, God, for another day!  

We prepare a simple cup of morning coffee, often mindlessly. But so many things had to go smoothly for this to happen. Proper amounts of sunlight and rain were needed for the plants to grow. We needed money to buy the coffee, plus electricity and clean water for the coffeemaker to work. In many parts of the world, these things are huge luxuries. Thank you, God, for this cup of coffee!  

In 1 Thessalonians:18, we read “In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” When things go terribly wrong, though, we may flinch at the idea of thanking God. Really? Thank him for this illness? Thank him for this teenager who keeps getting in trouble? And for this manager, who seems intent on criticizing my every move?  

But wasn’t the crucifixion an apparent sign that everything had gone terribly wrong? The most innocent man, God’s lamb, who had no guile in his heart, who showed love for people others despised, faced an unspeakable death. Being crucified was a punishment reserved for the most heinous criminals, yet this is what Jesus underwent. How wrong it seems that God came to earth to walk among his people, and we killed him!  

And yet, we give God thanks for the gift of his son. We thank Jesus for dying for us. We thank him for showing us suffering can lead to enlightenment. We bow our heads in humility as we see how Christ submitted himself to being humiliated.  

Of course, things didn’t really go wrong for Christ, because his suffering was part of the bigger, mysterious plan, which is true for our suffering too. It is never just an accident, an afterthought, an oversight. God’s death on the cross changed suffering forever. The cross sanctified suffering, so we know it doesn’t have the final word. It’s hard to utter this prayer, but over time, it comes more easily: Thank you, God, for the things in my life that go wrong.  

Some prayers seem stuck in neutral, apparently sitting in God’s in-box for years. It’s tempting to think he’s not hearing us, instead of acknowledging that whatever we’re praying for may not be his will for our lives. We may desperately want a promotion at the office, but he wants us to stay at our present level. “Why, God? Why can’t I have what I want?” This plea resembles the reaction of a disgruntled child, whose mother won’t give her more freedom. The mother has her reasons, which the child doesn’t comprehend. 

God also has his reasons, which he might not reveal to us. Praying and attending Mass, even when our requests aren’t being fulfilled, entails trust and patience. If we just look at the small picture, our lives could be seen as a tragedy. “How awful that she was diagnosed with cancer, despite all her prayers!” “How sad that she never married, even though she prayed so long for a spouse.”  

A life that seems tragic in the eyes of the world may be a great success to God. Jesus said, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33). Our bout with cancer may convert the hearts of others, who haven’t prayed for decades. Perhaps the one who never married has inspired countless friends with her faithfulness to God.  

Thank you, God, for the things that go right, the things that go wrong and the ones that remain at a standstill. Thank you for your mysterious will for my life!  

Artwork is an oil painting titled Este the Gentle by Jef Murray ( Lorraine’s email address is