Unexpected Gratitude and the Beauty of a Simple Thank-You
Have you ever been recognized and thanked for all of your hard work?
Once upon a lifetime ago, I was a youth pastor to a small youth group and I absolutely loved it. I'd show up day after day, week after week, to invest in the lives of my students. Being a youth pastor didn't come without difficulty though. In particular, I had one student that was kind of rough because she simply didn't like that I was the youth pastor. At one point, she even asked when the real youth pastor would show up. Ouch, right?
I poured into this student (and the youth group) for just under five years before God called me elsewhere. For those five years, I was met with resistance. I spent most of my time just questioning what in the world I was doing wrong! I wanted to reach this student and challenge her to really dive into her relationship with God. She challenged me more than I challenged her, I think. I was constantly thinking of ways to improve the situation and it always seemed that I was getting things wrong. To say this experience was frustrating, humbling, and discouraging is a complete understatement.
A few months after God had called me elsewhere, I got a phone call from this student. She apologized for being so difficult, asked for forgiveness, and sincerely thanked me for all the hard work I invested in her. I was probably most blown away by the fact that she made the effort to call, everything else was icing on the cake! Her unexpected gratitude for my investment in her really touched my heart. The many tears I cried over this one student suddenly became worth it!
Read Luke 17:11-19
This story about the ten lepers is always one of the forefront stories on my mind when I think about gratitude. It's also a fantastic story to show us what a couple steps in obedience can do.
Jesus enters a village to find ten lepers pleading for mercy and healing. Jesus takes one look at them and says, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."
As they went. Their healing depending on their faith to take those first steps in obedience. How many of us, upon hearing instruction, would stand there confused, thinking "But Jesus, you forgot to heal me!" They'd look at themselves covered in leprosy and think, "What exactly am I presenting to the priests?" Yet they still took those steps!
The one that maybe we'd bet on thinking that he would be the least likely to show gratitude, was actually the only one to thank Jesus. I wonder how much this small action moved Jesus' heart? I mean, He had healed a countless number of people and this is the one that thanks Him in such a profound way that it's recorded in the Bible. I wouldn't think that this person was the only one in His whole ministry that thanked him. As a parent, if my child were raised to life, I'd definitely offer my thanks! But why is this encounter the one that's recorded?
Is it because it was unexpected? Is it because none of the other lepers were so moved by their healing that they praised God, fell on their face in front of Jesus, and offered their thanks?
It makes me wonder, how often do we even notice our answered prayers? How often do we notice our answered prayers and then give thanks and praise to the One who answered them? Just like my student's gratitude so moved my heart, I'm pretty sure Jesus loves to hear of our gratitude!
Unexpected Gratitude: What We Learn
This leper allowed his gratitude to interrupt his journey. He saw his answered prayer. He saw his life and family restored to him (lepers lived away from the general population so that they wouldn't spread the disease). On his way to present himself to the priests, he saw his complete healing and paused on his journey to give his thanks. Does our gratitude ever stop us in our tracks? Does it ever take priority over all of the other important items on our to-do lists? He wasn't too busy to notice his healing. He wasn't too busy to stop in his tracks, turn back to Jesus, and offer his thanks. He wasn't too busy for praise. What a lesson!
This leper came back to the source of his healing to express his gratitude. Do we do that? Do we return to the source of our blessings to thank Him for them? I think a lot of times we can look at an answered prayer and just assume that life just happened and the situation resolved itself. We can overlook that there was a mastermind behind our answered prayer, specifically, there was Someone who actually ANSWERED our prayer. It isn't just coincidence. It isn't just happenstance. It's intentional that our prayers are answered, however, they're answered! Let's not try to explain away God's personal touch on our lives. Let's not try to explain away His authority over every circumstance and situation. Instead of explaining it all away, let's stop in our tracks and intentionally thanking Him for that personal touch!
When we constantly look for ways to thank Him for our blessings and answered prayers, He's not far from our minds. I've been reading in Psalms a lot lately and it doesn't take long before you pick up on numerous reasons to be thankful and to offer God our praise. If we can pick up on reasons as simple (that we usually take for granted) as sleep and then turn around to offer God praise and thanks for it, then He's not far from our minds at all. When we make a habit of looking for reasons to be thankful, we'll find ourselves praising continually. We, too, will find ourselves simply thankful for His friendship and investment in our lives.
Here's an example of some reasons to be thankful I found by just examining a few chapters:
He hears me. Salvation. Sleep. He lifts my head. He answers my cries. Joy. Peace. His steadfast love. Protection. Favor. Discipline. Refuge. Redemption. God's friendship. His faithfulness. God's wondrous deeds. Hope. His Righteous Acts. That He is a JUST judge. His creative acts. Forgiveness. Provision. We can't escape His Presence. (Psalm 3-7, 19-21, 25-27, 71, 96, 130-131,133, 136, 139)
Which of these reasons to you find yourself thankful for? Don't wait. Stop in your tracks, turn to Jesus, and offer your thanks and praise!