I give him thanks in the land of my captivity,
and I show his power and majesty to a nation of sinners.
Tobit 13: 6
. . .
There is a video that has been making its way around the internet: “Scientists discover one of the greatest contributing factors to happiness.” I was curious about the thing that increases happiness (despite the slightly awkwardly-placed modifier)–who wouldn’t want to find out what she could do to be happier? Laughter, I thought, maybe.
I was surprised to find that (in case you haven’t seen the video) what increases happiness (between 4 and 19%, according to the guy in the lab coat) is expressing gratitude. Immediately, I thought of a verse from one of my favorite psalms:
I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High;
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Psalm 49 : 11-15
So the ‘science’ reminded me of something I already knew: giving thanks is a balm for the heart. And Tobit seems to have known it, too. He doesn’t say, “I give thanks because God has rescued me from captivity”; he gives thanks in the land of captivity. Some days I get stuck between the joys and duties of motherhood and the joys and duties of my life as a (sort of) academic theologian. I love what I do in both roles. I am living two dreams, really, doing what I always wanted to do. So on those days when the tension between motherhood and career seems like captivity, I know what to do: give thanks.
Deo gratias, Deo gratias.