A Heart of Thankfulness

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Lucas Rudge, surrounded by his family.

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

I was reminded of the importance of having a heart of thankfulness when my father and I had a conversation about the birth of my son Lucas. When my wife, Tara, was pregnant with him, she was diagnosed with group B strep. We were told it was not serious, but it would require her to receive an antibiotic a few hours before Lucas would be born. My wife was somewhat concerned because with the previous pregnancy, our daughter was born within just a few hours. In light of this, she worried about making certain she could get the antibiotic prior to delivering our son. To ease her anxiety the doctor told Tara she would induce her so there would be no concern about getting the antibiotic. The day set for her to be induced was about a week before her actual due date, and other than the need for the antibiotic, my wife was progressing well. The doctor had no problem inducing a week early. Everything went well that day.

Tara took the antibiotic, and labor (at least from my standpoint) moved along smoothly. During the birth the doctor noticed the cord was wrapped around my son’s neck, and she quickly removed it. In the excitement of having another child, I didn’t think too much at the time about potential implications of the cord being around his neck. It was not until later, discussing this with my wife and my dad, that we all realized we could have lost Lucas. I truly believe that if my wife had not been induced a week early, my son might not be here today. I finally did what I should have done at the moment he was born – I got down on my knees and thanked the Lord!

When my son was born, it was a rainy and overcast day. However, at the moment he was born, the doctor commented how the sun suddenly came out and shone through the window. What a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness as He blessed our lives with our son Lucas (which, by the way, means “light bearer”). His birth date also was a blessing to my father. It was on that same date, July 5 – but decades prior – that his little brother, at age seven, was struck and killed by a car.

An Attitude of Contentment

When I was in Haiti as a youth, I witnessed both an amazing expression of gratitude and the demonstration of contentment. The mission compound where we stayed took food and water to a remote village once a week. This tiny village was extremely poor and the people had to walk miles to get water. As we approached, I was struck by two images: the first was of extreme poverty and the dire conditions in which the people lived. Their village was situated along a dirt path with minimal vegetation. The huts were made of dirt, straw, and what appeared to be old tin metal sheets. The children were running around naked and the adults were wearing tattered clothes.

Second, along with the extreme poverty, I was struck by the faces of the people as we entered the village. They began to smile and wave as they ran towards their huts. They came out wearing their best (old and worn-out) clothes as they headed to the one-room church that had been built near the mission compound. As we walked into the church they were singing a song. I asked our interpreter what they were singing, and he said, “They are thanking God for all He had given them.” I looked around and thought to myself, “What things?” These people had no houses, no cars, barely any food or clothes, and lived in a hot and extremely dusty environment. How could they be thankful?

Then I realized that a thankful heart does not focus on what it lacks but is content with, and grateful for, what it has. As the apostle Paul reminded the believers in Philippi:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).

An attitude of contentment moves our focus from circumstance to our Source of Strength. It reminds us that we serve a God Who is greater than anything we face, and as the Psalmist reminds us, His greatness is the reason we can have a heart of thankfulness:

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord
is a great God and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:2, 3

The preceding was excerpted from BJ’s new E-book, “Powerful and Effective Prayer.”