Growing in Gratitude

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1

In the autumn of 2002, my three-year-old son, Andrew, and I visited his sister, Elizabeth, while she slept peacefully in her cozy incubator in the neo-natal intensive care unit of Boston’s New England Medical Center.

As Andrew and I admired Elizabeth’s beautiful tinyness, I invited him to pray for his new sister.

Willingly, he began, “Dear God, thank you for Andrew and baby Elizabeth.”

Recognizing this as one of those teachable moments I gently said, “Andrew, you’re not supposed to pray for yourself when you pray for baby Elizabeth.”

Without pausing, Andrew prayed, “Dear God, thank you for baby Elizabeth, and not Andrew.”

Hmmm.  I see we have some work to do here!

Melissa and I invest a lot of time and energy trying to build character in our children.  We love who our kids are, but we know we can’t just sit back and admire these precious contributions to creation.  God has entrusted fathers and mothers with the responsibility for shaping who they will become.

Shaping necessitates instilling values.  Getting biblical values inside of our children by teaching and modelling during the ordinary moments of each day.  

One of those values is gratitude.  Melissa and I want our children to grow up with grateful hearts — to feel thankful every day for the life God has given them, and to be generous with their own expressions of gratitude.

That’s a tall order.  Bombarded by consumerism’s message that “happiness comes from getting stuff” immediately on the heels of American Thanksgiving, Melissa and I strive to use the Advent season to teach gratitude.

“Did you say, thank you?”

Earlier this week, a neighbour graciously invited our girls to join their girls in a special Christmas activity.  What do you think the first thing I asked them later that evening when they came in the door?

In restaurants, we tip waiters and waitresses for serving us.  We tell our children that the tip isn’t a tax, but rather an expression of our gratitude for good service.

This “most wonderful time of the year” is an especially meaningful time to talk with your kids about gratitude for two disproportionate reasons: theologically, for what God has done within history to redeem his people; and as “insurance” against the seductive lies of consumerism that have a way of oozing into every corner of our lives.

As teens become adults, and as adults mature, gratitude, which began as a simple response to gifts or courtesies, now overflows into relationships and circumstances.  Not all of them are positive, and some are downright painful.  Yet, gratitude is the right response.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

About a month after Andrew offered his innocent prayer of thanks, our precious baby Elizabeth died during her second month on earth.  We were crushed.  Some of you know what that feels like.

At an evening Thanksgiving service at our church in Lexington, Massachusetts, we didn’t plan to publicly express our gratitude to God for the life of our daughter.  It must have been one of those things that God placed on our hearts.

People approached us later with tears in their eyes, wondering how we could be anything but angry and bitter so soon after our loss.  I didn’t have an answer for them at the time, but looking back, genuine gratitude was the right response to a holy and faithful God.

Blessings on your home,

14 thoughts on “Growing in Gratitude”

  1. Robert,
    I will share this with Graham. We talked about Elsa the other day; about what we all were able to give her. LOVE . We showed her what it means to be loved. That is a gift from God and we are grateful for her life because God gave us so many gifts and grew our faith…Thank you God for all YOUR gifts.


  2. Carolyn, we’re always grateful for your heart and friendship! Even abbreviated little precious lives can continue to have immense impact on the world. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Thank you Robert,
    Gratitude is so important in this world and we don’t always give enough of it. We as believers are to be salt and light in this world. Thank you for sharing about your loss. May God continue to comfort your family as you continue to comfort others.


  4. A great testimony to God’s grace in your lives, and for gifting you with Elizabeth — albeit briefly. What a joy to know God is continuing to use you both as you graciously touch others who have also lost a child.


    1. Awesome hearing from you, and thanks for adding your comments. You know all too well the pain of losing a precious daughter. I am hugely grateful for the time that you and I shared together.


  5. This is really good Robert, and so very timely. I find so many suffering around me right now and tend to be short-sited of who God is and His Promises to us. May He give us all the grace to draw close to His Word and Himself, that he may transform and renew our minds and spirit…that he would produce Gratitude, even when we have to speak it out of faith as you did. Appreciate this!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a powerful tribute to a heartbreaking time in your life. You truly live what you preach when your commendable testimony demonstrates actions as well as words. It’s hard to “like” a post like this but I hope you know what I mean when I select that button. (And it’s an honor to have you following my blog, thank you) ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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