Happy the Thankful Heart
By Marlene J. Chase
Thanksgiving was often a legalistic maneuver when I was growing up. One was to be grateful because it was the polite thing to do. Besides, you should be grateful because somewhere someone didn’t have what you had. If spinach was served for dinner, you were to be grateful because starving children in the developing world would do somersaults just to have a spoonful. If something bad happened, we were urged to be grateful because there was always someone worse off. Who has not been reminded of the man who complained that he had no shoes until he met a man who had no feet?
“Blow, north wind, blow,” my mother would quote with tiresome frequency, “thou art not half as cruel as ingratitude.” There were times when we thought nothing was quite as cruel as its positive counterpart.
A Faulty Focus
Perhaps these are the misconceptions of spoiled children. But lack of gratitude always comes from improper focus—looking at the gift rather than the giver. Thankless people covet the gifts God provides but seldom seek to know Him. If we were to fully grasp the truth of who He is in all his majesty, we would find a lifetime insufficient for expressing our gratitude.
We have all met people who appear to have nothing and yet are uncompromisingly grateful. Like Mattie who, after losing all her family and becoming ill herself, ended up in a sub-standard nursing facility. As corps officers in a small Kansas city, we took her to church every Sunday, for which she thanked us profusely to the point of becoming tiresome.
When someone complained about dandelions on the lawn, Mattie exulted in the lemony loveliness of their color and stooped to pick one as though it were an exotic orchid. When she became too ill to attend church and was confined to her bed, she praised God that she could glimpse the sunshine through her small, square window.
Alexandr Solzenhitsyn, Russian novelist, imprisoned for speaking out against an oppressive government, wrote, “Bless you, prison, for being in my life.” He looked beyond his circumstances to the One who charged his life with meaning. In embracing Christ, he found reason for lasting joy and gratitude.
A Natural Outcome
Gratitude is a natural outcome of living a life focused on the Provider of all good gifts.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created” (James 1:17-18).
If the nine ungrateful lepers who were cleansed had been focusing on the Giver of their health rather than on the gift itself, they would have experienced a thankful heart, blessing that would last forever. Their physical health came with no such guarantee. They didn’t bother to thank Jesus for healing because they were too absorbed with the gift and totally neglected the Giver. But the one who returned to give glory to God received a greater gift.
Paul sang hymns of praise in prison and joyfully thanked God from the bow of a shipwrecked vessel. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” he wrote (Phil. 4:11). He had learned the secret of life—placing hope in the one true Constant in the midst of ungovernable and unceasing change.
A Constant Hope
Health, wealth, the love of family and friends can all be gone in an instant. In one day, Job lost his children, all his worldly possessions and his health. If his hope for life and living had been placed in these transient tangibles, he could not have said of God, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15).
“Blow, north wind, blow. Thou art not half so cruel as ingratitude.” Blow, wind of God through hearts focused on the Giver of every good gift. The radiant Presence that settles within will make us triumphant over every cruel circumstance and bring us at last to God who is our constant hope.
***Marlene Chase is a writer, editor, speaker and author, and retired Salvation Army Officer. Her works can be found online via Amazon Books and other online sources.***