Life is complicated, wouldn’t you say? Many important and/or urgent issues vie for our attention on a daily basis. As human beings, we attempt triage, tackling the most vital issues first so the “patient” does not expire. Unfortunately, giving daily thanks to God for all the blessings of our lives too often languishes at the very bottom of our to-do lists. Giving thanks takes time, no matter how you slice it. It requires reflection, and it requires a deliberate putting aside of distractions to praise and thank God for His many blessings.
It’s true that some “distractions” are truly dire emergencies that simply cannot be put on the side. If we are sitting in our rose garden, reflecting on God’s grace and good gifts to us, and neighbor boy Aiden falls off his bike and breaks his arm, we of course would not shout out to him to hold on a few minutes while we finish counting our blessings. We all recognize that. Nevertheless, we find in our day to day lives, there is usually a “lull” between dire emergency situations. How should we prioritize the use of that time? We would not necessarily consider a lull in emergency action to be “spare time,” especially if there are many things, we feel we need to get accomplished today. But let us admit that we can too easily enslave ourselves to our to-do lists. Taking time to thank our Lord should not fall behind everything we had promised ourselves we’d get done today.
Charles E. Hummel wrote a book first published in 1967, titled Tyranny of the Urgent. It is primarily about time management, but his thesis has more far reaching applications. Hummel writes:
An experienced factory manager once said to me, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.”1Hummel, Charles E. Tyranny of the Urgent, IVP Booklets, p. 5; InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition
And of course, we all decide what is urgent to us and what therefore should take precedence over some things that are “merely” important. We all know that God wants us to be thankful and praise Him for His love and care, but how important gratitude is to us is up to us to decide. We have all had experience with ungrateful people in our own lives, people who have not thanked us even when we have gone far out of our way to help them. Or worse yet, a person who complains incessantly about every effort we make on their behalf. It stings. But a grateful thanks can make all our effort worthwhile. God has feelings too. We need to remember how important it is to express gratitude to God for all He does for us.
During His earthly life, Jesus and His entourage came across ten lepers who begged Him to heal them. He healed them all, but only one, a Samaritan man, turned back to thank Jesus and give praise to God for his healing. Just one of ten. Jesus expressed absolute amazement at their ingratitude. (Luke 17:11-19) Undoubtedly, the other nine thought they had more important things to do. Yet being healed of Leprosy was a very big deal. Their ingratitude was astounding and should reveal to us all we need to know about our own gratitude towards God.
Perhaps we think that God is so big and powerful that it could not really matter to Him to hear thanks from us. But God makes very clear in the scriptures that it does matter to Him. God wants us to thank Him for blessings big and small. He listens and He cares. Sometimes we forget, being too caught up in our own plans and problems. And now and then, God shows us very plainly that He cares about what we might consider even the little things. When he was nine or ten years old, our son Lee had a hamster with the imaginative name of “Hammy.” He loved Hammy the hamster, and for a ten-year-old, he took extremely good care of him. He read some books on the care of hamsters, knew what “wet tail” was and how to treat it so Hammy wouldn’t die from the condition. When Lee arrived home from school he would swoop Hammy out of the cage and plop him onto his shoulder where Hammy would proudly ride, until he tired of that, at which point he would climb into Lee’s t-shirt and run around in there for a while. He chewed some holes in the shirt so he could peek out from time to time. We all could tell exactly where Hammy was by the moving bump in Lee’s shirts. Lee and Hammy were a great team – a boy and his hamster.
One night Hammy escaped his cage. It’s what hamsters do. Hammy had gotten out once or twice before, but thankfully he was found rather quickly before he could possibly escape down a heating vent where he would probably never be found. This night however, we were aroused by our son’s wail that Hammy was “in the wind.” Our search of the immediate premises tuned up nary a tawny hair. Lee was absolutely grief stricken and very scared for his little pal. He did the thing which we had taught him was so important in times of trouble. He asked us to pray with him that God would please bring Hammy back. Obviously, Lee’s faith was strong, but we as adults knew that God does not always answer prayer in the way we might want Him too. God is sovereign, and sometimes His answer may be “no” or perhaps “wait.” How much importance would God put on a hamster? Of course, we put a bold face on, and did as he requested, imploring God to protect Hammy and bring him back to Lee. After Lee went back to bed, however, we discussed it between ourselves, expressing concern about how an unanswered prayer might affect our son’s simple faith. What happens when Hammy doesn’t come back? What will that do to Lee’s belief in God and prayer? Oh, we of little faith. A few hours after we had gone to bed, we were awakened to Lee excitedly calling out to us. Hammy, as it turned out, didn’t just “come back,” but woke Lee up by rattling his cage door to get back in! Hamsters love to escape, but who had ever heard of one trying to get back in his cage? Oh yes, we were all very thankful – Lee for the return of his beloved pal, and us for the reminder that God does care about such a simple thing as a boy and his hamster. Even if a hamster seems like a small thing in the big picture of life, our son and his fledgling faith was important to God. And of course, our faith needed a bit of a jolt also.
Today is the day we as a nation celebrate Thanksgiving. Ours is a nation bitterly divided over big issues. We cannot say that most of our countrymen are Christians, and many people have the idea that the holiday is about pilgrims thanking Indians, or at least they pretend to believe that is what Thanksgiving is all about. We sure do hope that the pilgrims did thank the Indians for help received, but this day was and still is about thanking God for His many blessings. This day is a throwback to the not too distant days when Americans acknowledged and thanked God as a nation for the way He has obviously blessed us. Will He continue to bless this nation? We don’t know. But it seems we as a nation have put God on a shelf. Most Americans are not making it their business to notice His love and kindness – and are not at all thankful for His care. (Personally, these days we don’t ask God to bless America as much as we ask for mercy upon her).
We all have our own personal problems and the nation itself seems imperiled by the deep and angry divisions among her people. But we still do have very much to be thankful for. God has been and remains so good to us. As we gather and pray with our kids and grandkids, we will remember and be thankful for all the amazing answers to our prayers, both large and small. He so deserves our gratitude and praise.Ω
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|↑1||Hummel, Charles E. Tyranny of the Urgent, IVP Booklets, p. 5; InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition|