Whoever said these words got it right: “It’s hard to be thankful for something you think you deserve.” The world is full of people who believe that their parents, siblings, school, job, God, or society owe them something. This can sometimes occur when a person feels they’ve experienced more than their fair share of hardship. Such was not the case with my friend Becky.
No doubt Becky had suffered throughout her life. She had been born with a handicap that left her with a stature of just under 4 feet tall. But I forgot about her disability the minute I met her. Becky’s face was beautiful—but it was her regal grace, her cheerfulness, and her kindness to others that I most remember. I have only a dim memory of her humped back and deformed legs. It was Becky’s inner strength and trust in the Lord left me wanting to know her secret.
I was in my early twenties at the time—just a young bride. Becky was married, too, and well into her forties. This was long before breakthroughs in physical therapy and special accommodations for the disabled would have made life a little easier for her. I couldn’t imagine how she could have grown up with so little self-pity and such a rock solid faith in God. Part of the reason was her thorough knowledge of Scripture—she was one of the best Bible teachers I’ve ever known.
But as I got to know Becky better, I learned that her thankful spirit was also due to the way her wise, godly parents had raised their handicapped daughter. “If my mother and father ever noticed that I didn’t seem thankful for the blessings I had, or if my attitude became selfish, they’d tell me that I must have too many blessings,” she explained with a smile. “So they’d cut back on gifts and privileges for a while until I showed a little more gratitude for what I had.”
I’ve sometimes wondered if God notices when I struggle with being thankful or when I feel entitled. Is He anything like Becky’s wise and loving parents who refused to encourage self-pity in their disabled daughter? Becky’s words have remained with me all these years—I can almost hear her gently warning me not to take the blessings of this life for granted.
No doubt, she’d also point me back to the Bible and remind me to “ rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).