In his 90’s and with a weak heart, he was not long for this world. His carefully chosen words reflected a thoughtful life well-lived. I enjoyed regular chats with him, especially the simplicity and wisdom of his words one particular afternoon.
He was college-educated in the 1930’s, and had served his community as a land surveyor and an educator. He was a church leader and teacher, a family man, a man of God. My visits began as pastoral care, but I soon realized the benefit to me of probing his wisdom with questions about life. One day, he preempted my questions with one of his own.
“Do you know the most profound words a person can utter?” I didn’t waste time with a guess. He raised an unsteady index finger and pointed somewhere between my face and the sky. He paused for effect. “Thank you, Lord!”
“Why do you say that?” I queried, anxious for him to proceed. His explanation was just as simple. “Because at once, you acknowledge your need and God’s provision.”
At the risk of detracting from the simplicity of the thought, let’s unpack it. It is common to thank God for the basics of life. Faith, family and friends top the list along with sustenance, strength, and shelter. The Christian worldview though, has capacity for gratitude far beyond the basic needs and good things in life.
Everyone born into this world can expect things to go sideways. Life in a fallen world is like that. Yet we are challenged, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:18). This is not some Pollyannish formula to pretend things aren’t bad. When they are, we are tempted to respond with fear, anger, or anxiety. In those times, we are most aware of our need.
But the world is not as chaotic as you might think. God’s will for you is to prevent discomfort and suffering from having the final word, as He provides for your good “in all things” (Rom. 8:28). When you acknowledge the perspective of the Eternal that you are loved and destined for eternity, giving thanks to Him in everything makes sense. You are not subject to the chaos of a disordered world, but to God who brings order to chaos.
So be thankful and embrace the peace that replaces anxiety! “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Whatever is happening in your life, Thanksgiving is an opportunity served on a platter for you, together with your family, to utter these most profound words, “Thank you, Lord.”