My friend was telling me the saga of her teenage son’s illness. As a Down syndrome child, he had trouble enough with swallowing and digestion. But then he developed urgent issues that landed him in the hospital, and even after getting home, he could not eat solid food for almost two months. She and her son, both Christians, prayed together for mercy and healing, but it was a tough road to recovery. She described his first taste of normal food: a few potato chips. She told me that with each bite, he murmured, “So grateful. So grateful.”
What she hadn’t expected is that he continues to say the same with each bite, days later. “So grateful, so grateful.”
I carry a humbled admiration at a boy feeling such a sustained yet spontaneous gratitude for the simple blessing of healthy eating. What pleasure that must bring to God’s heart.
As I have studied the conclusion of I Thessalonians 5, I find this little volley of exhortations:
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances.” As I have turned these over in my mind the last several weeks, I’ve sensed that they are almost the same command stated three ways. Finding things to rejoice over and thank God for constantly will require ceaseless prayer, not only for expression to God but to seek His voice and vision for the good in all circumstances. If we give thanks in all circumstances, we will rejoice. We will offer those thanks by praying as much as we rejoice. It all goes round in a wonderful wreath of heartfelt communion with the Lord.
But it has been a hard year. And as we prepare for Thanksgiving, we may have to look at smaller things, like potato chips, or higher things, like God’s covenant love for us, before feeling thankful. Look either direction—His grace is everywhere—but look you must. Paul said that he had learned contentment, so it shouldn’t surprise us to have to do some learning in this. I remember the finale of the trio of commandments—“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I have sought coaching on the subject of gratitude from the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book charmingly titled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. He suggests that you may say, “…It is not with my house and family as I hoped it might be; perhaps there is this or that affliction upon my house; suppose you had the plague come into your house, and your house isn’t safe; and you don’t have that outward comfort in your house that you had formerly. But you can read this Scripture and say, ‘Although my house is not so blessed with health as other men’s houses are, although my house isn’t so, yet He has made with me an everlasting Covenant. I am still in covenant with God. The Lord has made with me an everlasting covenant. As for these things in the world, I see they are but momentary, they are not everlasting.’”
It’s when I put on my “everlasting spectacles” that I see life thankfully. When I make the Lord “my portion,” I have enough. My young friend who is “so grateful” has a focus that enables him to be joyful, because he sees even a potato chip as coming from the hand of a merciful God.
Or as Burroughs would say, “Because in whatever he has, he has the love of God….If a king sent a piece of meat from his own table, it is a great deal more comforting to a courtier, than if he had twenty dishes as his ordinary allowance….If your husbands are at sea, and they send you a token of their love, it is worth more than forty times as much as you have in your houses already. Every good thing the people of God enjoy, they enjoy it in God’s love, as a token of God’s love, and coming from God’s eternal love to them. This must be very sweet to them.”
Received as a token of God’s love, a potato chip is a Thanksgiving feast.
About the Author:
Leah Farish is active in women’s ministry in Oklahoma, and in the Middle East and North Africa. She is a lawyer who would rather do stand-up comedy. Her husband and kids would prefer that she do that as well.