Tis the season for giving thanks. Many people have taken the challenge to consider something they are grateful for each day of the month of November. It’s a wonderful thing to have a daily discipline of recognizing something we are grateful for. Even in the midst of so many disorienting disappointments, gratitude is so important for our faith and our health.
Consider this story from the Gospel of Luke:
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:11-19)
The 10 lepers were desperately seeking healing. They were living lives plagued by potentially incurable illness, separated from their loved ones, had lost their community, were banned from the temple and were unable to worship with the rest of the faithful. In their desperation, they called out to the healer, Jesus. And they kept their distance. This story reads differently now in our COVID context, doesn’t it? We know all about keeping distance, and being isolated and restricted to groups of 10 or less. Jesus sent them away to go to their priest for healing, and along the way, they were healed of their affliction. Only one of the ten returned to thank Jesus. The others kept going, on their way to the priest. We don’t know why only one turned around to express gratitude. Yet Jesus’ words have been ringing in my ears. “Your faith has made you well.” In Caroline’s bible mentoring Bible, the translation says, “Your faith has healed you.”
The spiritual discipline of gratitude healed this one leper who returned to worship Jesus. All of them were healed from their physical affliction, but the act of saying “Thank you” healed the one. Expressing our gratitude, naming it, sharing it with others, and talking with God about it heals us. Gratitude is not simply a required social gesture, it’s a way to live our faith in God. We are all in need of healing, and regularly giving thanks will heal our minds, our souls, and our relationships. Write down a line of gratitude in a journal each day. Send a text to someone to say you’re grateful for them. Give someone a call to share how thankful you are for their presence in your life. Pray. Let’s not forget to turn in Jesus’ direction.