William Stedger was a businessman who experienced a shattering emotional breakdown. His energies were depleted. He was depressed. He sought help but still did not progress. One day an insightful friend asked him, “When was the last time you singled out one of your acquaintances, who has been gracious to you, and expressed appreciation?” That question annoyed him, but he went home that evening and in the isolation of his living room he selected some stationery and, for the first time in two decades, he remembered a high school English teacher. He had not even thought of her in years, but she had taken an interest in him. She had helped him to discover a love for poetry he didn’t know he had. She imagined that he might be worth something after all. He wrote her a simple letter expressing his gratitude for what she had done for him. Three days later a letter came from her. In the tremulous handwriting of a long retired teacher she wrote: ‘My eyes are blinded with tears as I write. You are the first student in all my career who has ever written me a letter to express thanks.” She continued, “I will keep it as long as I live,” With her response to his letter in mind, he thought of someone else. And so he wrote another letter, and then another. He didn’t even notice when he got well, as he discovered the joy of expressing his love and gratitude to others.
In this simple story lies a biblical truth of solid gold—the power and grace of gratitude. Too much of our life is filled with unfinished business. Not the business of doing, but the business of reflecting. One thing that that separates humans from the animals is our ability to reflect. Unfortunately, we too often find ourselves imitating the animals instead of the gracious God in whose likeness we find the power to be reflective...and grateful. We have seen far too many people who have allowed themselves to absorb the spirit of “the world owes me…” Without the soul’s willingness to express true and heartfelt gratitude we are shut off from the greatest gifts God has for us. So many lives have turned in upon themselves and therefore seem deprived of the ability to be truly thankful. But without true gratitude, freely, genuinely, and sincerely expressed we are unable to see who we truly are and especially who God truly is. We are totally unable to sincerely say, “Praise God” because that expression proceeds from a knowledge that we have been “blessed.”
I challenge you to accept the lesson of William Stedger as a personal test. Think of someone who has been gracious to you, perhaps someone you have never responded to before, and buy that person a little gift or card to express your appreciation for whatever it was he or she did. Then see if your life doesn’t take on a deeper and brighter luster.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship