Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Thankfulness

Who Helped You?

The late Thurgood Marshall, who served on the US Supreme Court for 24 years, once said, “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody — a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns — bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

Much of our success — financial, career, educational, spiritual, relational — comes from the contributions of others. Think of all the ways others have helped us: A word of encouragement; money; a timely rebuke; a shortcut; a recipe; an idea; standing behind us when nobody else would; forgiveness; a hug; a place to stay; food; a recommendation; a tool; a gift; a scholarship; a freebie. We can’t begin to count all the ways in which others have helped us. 

Two responses are demanded by the kindness and generosity of others. 

First, we should be humble toward those who help us. Sometimes humility means that we allow others to help us. Some of us are too proud ever let anyone help us. There’s nothing good about that kind of pride. Sometimes humility means that we acknowledge what they’ve done for us. A simple “Thank You” is a powerful way to recognize the one who gave us the gift, and to recognize our heavenly Father for channeling his gifts through others.

The second response is that we should try to help others. If we’ve received grace, we must extend it. The apostle Paul had this in mind we he said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1.3-4). If we’ve been comforted, we should offer comfort.

He enlarges upon this concept in Colossians 3.12-13 when he says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other. Whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

As modern Americans we tend toward proud self-sufficiency. As Christians, we tend toward gratitude, humility, and generosity. May God help us remember who helped us.

Robbery & Gratitude

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) was a British nonconformist minister. He was highly respected, both then and now. His six-volume commentary on the Bible written and published from 1708-1710 remains popular even today. 

One night Henry was robbed as he was out walking. Later that night in his prayer journal he wrote, “I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” 

If I were robbed, I’m not so sure I’d be that gracious in my prayers. I’d more likely be quoting Psalm 58.6, where David prayed, “Break their teeth, O God!” (KJV)

Nonetheless, my first impression of Matthew Henry’s prayer of gratitude is its perspective. He acknowledged that he’d never had such an experience. He acknowledged that the crime could have been much worse. He acknowledged that his loss was minimal. Finally, he acknowledged that being robbed is fundamentally different from being a robber.

What I appreciate most about Henry’s prayer is its sense of priority. In keeping a sense of thankfulness, he also kept his priorities intact. Gratitude keeps things in perspective. Too often we complain about the silliest things, things that aren’t worth the worry, things that reveal where our hearts really are. Jesus was talking about priorities when he said, “For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6.21). 

The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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” (Philippians 4.4-7). 

You may one day be robbed of your money. You may be robbed of your possessions. You may be robbed of your health, or your job, or your relationships. You may lose a little or a lot. 

But don’t let anyone or anything rob you of your joy, gratitude, and peace in Jesus Christ. That’s one thing none of us can afford to lose.

The Good Life

Garrison Keillor – “Thank you, God, for this good life, and forgive us if we don’t love it enough.” 

Keillor was right. We often fail to appreciate and even love the life and blessings that we have from God. Looking at the headlines lately has brought that home to me in many ways: The political turmoil in Afghanistan; the recent earthquake and flooding in Haiti; the flooding in middle Tennessee; the resurgence of the COVID pandemic. All of these are reminders that we are blessed. In so many ways, we live The Good Life. 

Part of the problem may be in how we define “the good life.” I Googled that phrase, and the first hit was from It gave two definitions of “the good life,” the first of which was, “the kind of life that people with a lot of money are able to have.” I should note that at the beginning of that definition were the letters “US” in italics, meaning that this is the primary definition for literate adults in the USA. The second definition is more what I would have expected, “a happy and enjoyable life.” 

The truth is, Americans equate The Good Life with material prosperity. But for Christians, that’s a slippery slope at best. Jesus himself warned, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12.15). For God’s people, The Good Life has little to do with wealth. 

A better perspective is provided by King David in Psalm 16.5-6, when he said, “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” It sounds like David is talking about the Israelite land inheritance. But a closer look suggests that he’s using that as a metaphor for something else, for his relationship to God. He says in verse 5, “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance.” David wasn’t thinking about land; he was thinking about the Lord.

That’s reinforced in verse 2: “I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good besides You.” For David, The Good Life was life in relationship with God, a godward orientation in life. 

Once we understand that having The Good Life is not dependent upon money, possessions, or circumstances, it helps us see the blessings we have. It also keeps us from constantly fretting about what we don’t have. Despite any problems we may have, in Christ we have THE ultimate good life. Let’s thank God for that, enjoy it, and share it with others.