Editor's note: this piece was coauthored by Hagelin's daughter, Kristin Carey.
God “gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45).
Every one of us has been blessed by God, but so few of us recognize His hand on our lives. And those of us who do recognize His providence so rarely take the time to express our gratitude. All too often our thanks is missing.
The Bible tells the story of a time when Jesus healed ten men from leprosy at a time. “One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.Jesus said, ‘Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you’” (Luke 17:15-19).
Many of us, at best, are most often like the nine. There is no doubt that we are overjoyed to receive the blessings, but we are so focused on our good fortune that we never stop to consider the source of those blessings. And because we don’t turn around to thank the One who so freely gives, we quickly come to take the blessings for granted. Or worse, we instead focus on what we don't have and end up missing the blessings altogether.
Ten men were healed, but only one heard Jesus speak the words, “Your faith has healed and saved you.” Ten men were healed, but only the one who returned to give thanks was changed for eternity. Only he experienced the full reality of the blessing, the saving grace.
The Hope: Give Thanks At All Times
In 1863, in the midst of our terrible and bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. In his proclamation, he said:
“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
He then continued on to list the incredible blessings, which he recognized even in “the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity,” a time when he would have had every human excuse to despair rather than give thanks. But he refused to let the blessings go unrecognized, and he refused to let God be forgotten. What a wonderful lesson his example holds for us.
No matter what you might be going through, no matter the disappointments or challenges you might be facing in this moment, it is right—and healing—to stop and praise God for who He is, and for all that He has done.
How to start? These three steps show the progression of gratitude that takes place in the lives of those whose eyes are open—or whose eyes are being trained to see—what God is doing on Earth.
1) Recognize what you have: think about and verbalize or write down both the everyday blessings you often miss (like your comfortably heated home; or your functioning body; or the sweet tartness in the taste of oranges), as well as the unexpected ones. Spoiler alert: You will find that your list is, quite literally, endless. You could never take account of everything you have to be grateful for.
2) Give sincere thanks to God—aloud. Verbalize your appreciation: there is power in your words! As you voice the realities of the many blessings you enjoy, you become more deeply aware that you are indeed a beloved child of a God who knows how to give good gifts to His children.
3) Invite others into your joy by sharing with them as freely as God has given to you. When you have a truly grateful heart and disposition, you become generous, and that brings even more glory to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us…”
You will influence eternity to the same extent that you imitate Christ in his generosity.
Thanksgiving Day is the perfect time to practice being thankful, so that it starts to become a natural part of your life.
As Ronald Reagan said, “The blessings that are ours must be understood as the gift of a loving God Whose greatest gift is healing. Let us join then, with the psalmist of old:
’O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name,
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him,
Tell of all His wonderful works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!’”
May you and your family be so full of gratitude that you overflow with joy that moves you into generosity this Thanksgiving!