Hello again, today I decided to ask this question, and if you are reading me I would like to know your opinion… When did we forget to thank God? It is true that cultural differences can affect many things, but I think that the situation I am going to describe to you below is not due to cultural differences. I tell you that in exactly 11 days I will be four years old after emigrating from my country, Venezuela. There is no need to name the reasons, some more personal than others, but there could still be more than one reason (hyperinflation; currency devaluation; food and medicine shortages; insecurity; GDP fall of more than 35%, something never seen in any other country in the world; and well, I reserve my political opinion about the current regime, so as not to fall into controversy).
Following the idea, of those 4 years that I will soon have, it will be 3.5 years in Spain, a country really rich in gastronomy, in nature, in hours of sunshine per year if we compare it with the rest of Europe…
Now, when I started working, or sharing with the Spaniards, it struck me that most of the young people are atheists, they don’t believe in God… Literally, they tell you that… If you go to a church, if it’s Catholic, it’s mostly filled with old people, and if you go to a Christian church, it’s mostly filled with Latin Americans who migrated here to Spain.
My astonishment does not end there, in this world of acquaintances and co-workers, I also noticed that some Spaniards use Santeria, if as you read it, I flip in colors (as they say here).
What is Santeria? It’s a religious belief that is proper to black Cubans in which there is a syncretism of Christian and African animist practices. Its most remote origins are in the Yoruba tribe of Africa, who lived in what is now Nigeria. These old beliefs, brought by African slaves, were merged in the island of Cuba with Catholicism, to create Santeria. When the Europeans colonized America, they did not allow slaves imported from Africa to worship their gods. As a solution, the Africans identified their gods with the Christian saints, so that they could continue to worship their divinities without their owners noticing. In this way, Santeria appears already defined in the western beliefs of Cuba, in the 19th century.
Then, the majority is usually atheist, does not believe in God, but in spite of it, some are able to resort to Santeria / witchcraft, to achieve success in the work (since apparently, it seems to them impossible to achieve it by own merit), for a couple, to take revenge on their ex, so that the business prospers, etc; as proof I leave some pictures of headlines and their respective sources. Now, in another post, I’ll talk about how far away from God these kinds of practices are.
Let’s go back to the initial question, when did we forget to thank God?, I quote another example, yesterday I watched a Spanish movie on Netflix called ‘Everybody knows’ and starred mainly by Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Jaime Lorent, Ricardo Darin, Barbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, among others. What is the story about? It’s a story about a kidnapping, where Laura (Cruz), who lives in Argentina, returns to her hometown in Spain for the wedding of her younger sister, Ana (Cuesta). Usually her husband accompanies her, but for work reasons, this time Alejandro (Darin) cannot come. The reunion with the family seems to be going very well. The joy of the wedding party turns into terror when Irene (Campra), Laura’s teenage daughter, disappears. The crime that shakes the region where the grapes are planted also sows suspicion among its inhabitants. Old quarrels between family and village are uncovered, and secrets from the past are revealed. The main one, to which the title alludes, is the love affair that existed between Laura and Paco (Bardem). Everything points to someone close to her having kidnapped her, and the situation goes from assuming that the enemy is “among us” to the intuition that the enemy “is us”.
In my opinion, the film is very good, but it did not stop calling me the expressions with which Laura and her family (Spanish) referred to God when Alejandro (Laura’s husband and Argentinean nationality) expressed that God would protect his daughter and that with His help they could rescue her. If I know what you are thinking, that for most of you it would be amazing to talk about an express kidnapping, unfortunately for those of us who come from countries like Venezuela, that is already ‘normal’ (and even my younger sister was a victim of an express kidnapping on December 29, 2006), but in this case, I want to emphasize that in the film the expressions were marked and also questioned Alejandro why ‘his God’ did nothing.
The last example I want to quote is very disconcerting for me too, and it is about the current situation, after the COVID-19 crisis. Spain has been the second most affected country by the virus after the United States. The number of deaths and infections has been staggering in comparison with the number of inhabitants of the country. Now, every day I watch the news, it is impossible not to, and whatever chain you put on, you usually hear testimonies, from people who fortunately won the battle against the virus, and all have given thanks to the health workers and their families for their support, others to the authorities, the police, among others, but in 66 days of quarantine I still have not heard the first person to give testimony and “thank God” for their recovery. Not to mention, there are presenters on the same television who refer to the virus as “this damn” virus… This and many other expressions, far from God.
By April 2019, according to data from the Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) and the National Institute of Statistics (INE), young people aged 18 to 24 are the least believers among all age groups, a situation that illustrates the future like no other; the proportion of these young people who go beyond religion (48.9%) is similar to that of those who confess their faith in some belief (48.5%). The situation was radically different among persons over 65 years of age; in these groups, Spaniards still believed in the God of their childhood (88.6%).
These statistics (I regret not having been able to obtain a more current data) do not even mention that youth were questioning the existence of God, as science once did. Generally, science broadens our knowledge of the world immensely and brings us closer to the sublime beauty of the laws of nature. But, as a collective activity or social system, it stays away from the big questions that its results suggest. This is a personal task, like everything that concerns freedom, because keeping us open to these questions is what defines us as free people, at the deepest level, conferring us an enormous greatness, despite our smallness before the universe, of whether we believe in God, if we entrust our days to Him and more importantly if we thank Him for our life, for our home, for our health, for having a plate of food on our tables, for our family and friends, and all the things for which we could thank Him daily.
Let me explain, that gratitude is one of the noblest qualities of the human being. We should all be grateful to God, because remember that even in the midst of the difficulties and ups and downs of life, we can see and feel the goodness, the provision and the help of God (as told by someone, who even went for minutes without vital signs in the resuscitation room of the Peace Hospital, following a stroke). I can understand, that you don’t feel comfortable in thanking him, but please, don’t deny his presence and much less replace him with other gods.
May the peace of Christ, to which you were called in one body, rule in your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you with all its richness: teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God, with gratitude of heart. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.– Colossians 3:15-17
Do everything with gratitude, the more we are filled with gratitude, we are at peace, and our perspective on life can change, seeing the positive in the face of even the most adverse circumstances, because even fear, stress can move us to action, to reinvent ourselves, to connect with our essence (positive stress).
Give grace for others. We are surrounded by people God has placed in our lives, our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and many others. They are all part of our daily lives. Make it a habit to pray for the people God puts in your mind and on your path.
Be thankful for the blessings of others. Yes, for many I know it is difficult or strange, but thank God for the blessings He gives to others. Rejoice in your heart when God works on behalf of those around you. If you don’t believe in God, remember that the universe is energy, we are energy, and what you give comes back.
I always thank God for you, because he, in Christ Jesus, has given you his grace.– 1 Corinthians 1:4
And finally, and for me the most difficult, and I will understand if you tell me that it is not easy to give thanks even in the midst of painful situations or worse, those we do not understand. But I have seen that giving thanks to God in the midst of a bad circumstance strengthens our spirit. We allow ourselves to trust Him more and more, in other words, our faith is strengthened, and we begin to see or understand that there is a good behind all our tragedies, even a world-wide pandemic as horrible as this COVID-19.
In conclusion, the attitude we live with, the level of peace, the level of stability we have, is what determines how much or how little we enjoy each day of our lives. Surely by now you have realized that very few days go exactly the way you wanted them to. Remember, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is”. Albert Einstein.
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