By GraceAnna Castleberry
“Jesus, help us! Jesus, help us!” my two year old shouted over and over again as she ran in circles around our living room. I’ve probably heard those lines a hundred times since I read her the story of the ten lepers Jesus healed. She had been sick for
days with a double ear infection and sore throat. After her little body recuperated, I picked up one of her Read Aloud Bible Story books and the page fell open to the story of the ten lepers. How perfect, I thought. In the story, the lepers cry out, “Jesus, help us!” as Jesus approaches. I read that line in a dramatic voice as I cupped my hands around my mouth. I explained to her how sick these men were and how Jesus made them well, just as He had helped her get well. “Jesus, help us! Jesus, help us!” she started chanting over and over and hasn’t forgotten since.
Miraculously Made Well
Those two lines finally drove me to read Luke 17 again for myself. Ten men are plagued with leprosy and are forced to live outside the city. Shunned and isolated, they had to shout to be heard by Christ the day he walked by. Their only hope of being restored to a normal life was healing. Who knows how many times they had cried in desperation to passersby before, only to be ignored. But that day was different. The Son of David was passing by and perhaps he would have mercy on them and do what no one else could do. The Scripture records that when Jesus heard their cries, “he saw them” (Luke 17:14). He told them to go show themselves to the priests in the temple. As the lepers were on their way, they were cleansed. All ten were miraculously healed. Yet only one turned back to thank Jesus. Only one. He “fell on his face at Jesus’ feet giving thanks,” and praised God “with a loud voice” (Luke 17:15-16). It is then that saving healing took place, “Rise and go your way,” Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.”
Remember Our Redemption
It’s that time of year again, the “thankful” season. As I give thanks this month, I don’t want to be insincere or surface level in my gratitude. Yes, I want to appreciate the small things, but I want something deeper than that. I want to feel thankfulness at the core of my being. But how does that happen? How do I give thanks to God like that on a mundane morning? How do I gain the gratitude of the healed leper that ran to Jesus? What I learn from the one leper is that true thanksgiving is rooted in redemption. The leper recognized the gravity of what had happened when he was healed. He had been made well by God (17:15). Skin still tingling with freshness, he could not help but utter deep, heartfelt thanks to God. Sometimes it’s easy to forget our predicament before Christ cleansed us. We forget that we were separated from God and our sinful condition was much worse than leprosy. We were dead (Colossians 2:13). Maybe it’s been a while since Jesus “saw us” and made us well. We no longer feel the magnitude of our forgiveness and we go on our way, happy with circumstantial things. We forget to turn back. But we must return. We must return over and over again, day after day, and remember what Jesus has done for us. He has saved us. He has given us a future and a hope and He is now our Father.
Thankfulness to a Person
I also learn from the ten lepers that there is a big difference between being thankful for something (the other nine lepers were thankful), and being thankful to someone. The nine lepers only wanted what Jesus could do for them. After they received that, they went on their merry way. Their earthly lives were better and they were content with that surface level change. They were overjoyed with the gift, but they did not care much about the Giver. But the one leper was overcome with gratefulness and it drove Him to Christ. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” True thanksgiving sees beyond the gift, to the Giver, who is God. That’s what makes the Thanksgiving season so different for us as Christians. We run back over and over again to the Giver. And it’s shouldn’t be a thankfulness that happens only in November, but all year long.
A Satisfying Feast
There is only one source for true thanksgiving and that is Christ. When the trials of life are heavy, and the tears are near, I must remember who I am and who I was and who God is. If my focus is on me, and my circumstances, I will never exude true thanksgiving. I may utter a thankful thought at best for the gift, but I will never “Come into His presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:2) or fall on my face in praise. This kind of joy will only take root in my heart when I spend time with God in His Word. Amazingly, He calls to me and invites me to come, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). When I come to the fountain of living water, He will be more satisfying than any gourmet feast. From my “innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” My heart will overflow with thanksgiving because of the greatness of the Giver.
As you hang your “Give Thanks” banner for the rest of this month, I hope you see more than pretty burlap bunting. May those simple words cause you to run over and over again to the Giver, and rejoice in thankfulness to the One who “made you well.”
GraceAnna Castleberry is a wife, mother, and worker at home. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband Grant, who is pursuing a M.Div. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. GraceAnna holds a BA in Early Childhood Education from Clemson University and is passionate about building into the lives of children, primarily her own two daughters. GraceAnna and her mom host a weekly radio program, Mothering from the Heart, which can be heard Wednesdays at 11am (EST) at WAGP.net. GraceAnna blogs regularly at www.graceannacastleberry.com
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