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People Say the Darndest Things

Part 4.

People say the darndest things — sometimes to preachers. This continues a blog series on some of those things that have been said to me over the years. Here’s one:

“What do I have to be thankful for?”

When life hits you hard, I actually understand asking this question. It’s difficult to give thanks after a loved one dies, a marriage breaks apart, or a natural disaster wipes away your possessions. But it is a slow, inner death to remain in the dumps and refuse to see the blessings that do remain … and anticipate the ones that will eventually come.

Remember that not to be happy is not to be grateful.

What makes you happy? Is it a good book by a crackling fireside? A long walk by a lake with a cherished friend? A worship service with hymns and glowing candles? Take a moment and let your mind remember your favorite things. Even better, devote some time to these things and give thanks.

Count your blessings, not your problems.

Breathe in the crisp fall air. Take a long, cold drink of water or crunch into a fresh apple. Watch the fiery red and yellow leaves about to drop on the trees. Marvel that the planet you are standing on is perfectly positioned to receive the life-giving rays of the sun and make the seasons possible. These are free blessings for which you can be thankful.

Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.

Do you feel self-pity or ingratitude settling in? Administer a dose of thankfulness. Psychotherapist and author, Dr. Melaine Greenburg, writes, “Feeling and expressing gratitude turns our mental focus to the positive, which compensates for our brains’ natural tendency to focus on threats, worries, and negative aspects of life. As such, gratitude creates positive emotions like joy, love, and contentment which research shows can undo the grip of negative emotions like anxiety.”

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds!

Some people are angry with God. They believe they have a target on their backs and shake their fists at heaven. But God is not our enemy; He is the lover of our souls. Yes, bad things do happen to good people and we can’t fully explain that except to say that we live in a broken, fallen world. A world, by the way, that God dared to visit 2000 years ago in the person of a Jewish carpenter, a world that He loved so much that He gave His only Son.

Jesus Himself was no stranger to pain and grief. He was a Man of Sorrows who groaned at the tomb of Lazarus, wept over Jerusalem, and died for your salvation, for the salvation of us all. Yet even with the shadow of the cross looming over Him, Jesus took the time to give thanks to God.

As a callow Oxford don, John Wesley met the college porter one night. The halls were cold and Wesley urged him to replace the threadbare coat he was wearing.

“I thank God for this the one coat I possess,” the porter replied. “And I thank Him for water, my only drink during the day.”

Wesley challenged him. “It’s getting late. What if you are locked out of your room?”

“Then I will thank Him I have the dry stones to lie upon.”

Curious, Wesley asked, “What else do you thank God for?”

“I thank Him that He has given me my life and being, a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.”

Returning to his room, Wesley’s conscience was pricked. He realized that he was a stranger to this kind of gratitude. His religion had been practiced in outward form only. He lacked an inward yearning toward God.

Are we as grateful as a lowly college porter who had very little? Something to chew on besides our turkey this Thanksgiving day.


First headline attributed to Elizabeth Carter

Second headline by Mandy Hale

Third headline by John Henry Jowett

Fourth headline – Psalm 9:1

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