The Thankful Heart is a Childish Heart

Thanksgiving is a time when we gather around tables filled with good graces from God—food and fellowship that we are to commanded enjoy with humble gratitude in our hearts, giving glory to God especially as these gifts of food and fellowship draw our hearts to anticipate an even greater feast, the marriage supper of Lamb. O for the day when we will all sit in perfect, unending fellowship with King Jesus and one another! May our hearts be stirred to long all the more for the day when we feast in eternal celebration with our Redeemer and Bridegroom!

Many of you know that Emily and I welcomed twins, Whit and Olivia, two weeks ago. If you didn’t know that, you now know why I look a little dazed and confused up here. But by God’s grace we are learning to find great joy in the midst of chaos. In the midst of the chaos in our home, as I’ve reflected upon my increased responsibility, being a father now to three children, and considering how the world God has appointed them to grow up in appears to be coming apart at the seams, I have wondered how I ought to shepherd my children in cultivating a discipline of thanksgiving. How are they to be thankful in a world that seems against them at every turn? How are they to find joy in a world defined by bleak headlines? What I have to offer to you is the fruit of my still incomplete, very imperfect prayerful consideration of these questions. This will be less pastoral and more paternal— words aimed at my children that I pray will encourage your hearts as well. For those of you thinking you are a mature adult and have no need of childish talk, C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Indeed. And I pray the same can be said for my paternal plea that I have summarized in two childish exhortations.

First, let your childish wonder of the world endure. The world is an amazing place. The funny thing is that most people don’t even notice. When most people look at the world, they only see the bad things or the things they wish were different. But if you look, actually look, you will see the world is the good work of a good Creator. Sure, there are some pretty bad things in the world, and there are some things that should be different. But all of those things don’t belong in the Creator’s world, so it’s a bit silly to only see those things. And if you only see those things that are bad or wrong or should be different, you will be a very unhappy, ungrateful person indeed.

No one understood this more than GK Chesterton, a man who found more beauty and wonder in the shapes of people’s noses than most people do in most other things. He would be proud, perhaps even a little jealous, of your childish wonder. He once said of children like you:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Grown ups like me wish we could wonder at the world like you can! We catch glimpses every once and a while, but far too often we are blinded to the splendor of the simple. But it is true, as the old song says:

This is my Father’s world. 

He shines in all that’s fair.

And when you grow up and are tempted to see only the bad things and the things that should be different, learn and sing the best part of that old song:

This is my Father’s world.

The battle is not done.

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

and earth and heaven be one.

Can you imagine, children, the day when earth and heaven are one—when there are no more sad things, no more broken things, no more hurting things?! As you grow up, you will long all the more for that Day. I know I do.

Second, let your childish dependence lead you to trust the King. You know already too well the helplessness of the human condition. This world is harsh and unfair and at times entirely overwhelming. You will, with a frequency that will pain me, experience hurt and heartache. From these I cannot shelter you. You and me and the rest of the whole world have wronged the King. We have sinned. And our sin is a disease far worse than any you know, and for it we have no cure. But there is One who does. And He is the King—the same King that we have wronged is the King who can cure the disease of sin that infects our hearts and every part of the world. But this is the best part—not only can the King cure the disease of sin, He did cure it! He cured it by willingly suffering the death of sin’s disease, even though He of course did not deserve to because it was us, not Him, who have done wrong. And it gets better still. You may think that the disease of sin won since it killed the King. But the King is the King for a reason—nothing and no one is greater than He is—even the disease of sin. The King is so strong and so powerful that He could not stay dead. He won victory over the disease of sin and its awful death by resurrecting to new life. When the King rose up from the dead, all sad things began to come untrue! If the King were a great lion and sin the most miserable winter you can imagine, it could be said, as another story does, “When he bears his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” It may seem scary to think of a lion baring his big teeth and shaking his powerful mane. Such a King may not seem quite so safe. But “of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

When the King rose up from the dead, all sad things began to come untrue!

Therefore, my children, no matter what befalls you, you can always and forever trust the goodness of the King who took the worst of the world’s brokenness upon Himself so that all the sad things are not the last things for all those who trust in Him.

Is it not depressingly exhausting to look at the world around us through grown up eyes—constantly concerned with all that is wrong or could be wrong?

Brothers and sisters, cultivating the discipline of thanksgiving is no different for us, though as Chesterton notes “we have sinned and grown old.” We must learn to see the world, our good Father’s good world, through childish eyes. Is it not depressingly exhausting to look at the world around us through grown up eyes—constantly concerned with all that is wrong or could be wrong? We can drive into the office against the backdrop of a burning fire ball more than 100 times bigger than the earth rising in the sky every day painting it a splendorous array of color and complain when its rays get in our eyes. We can live in the shadow of the most massive granite rock in the world and find its gray appearance depressing. We can actually wake up from sleep during which we did absolutely nothing to sustain our life and only think, “Here we go again.” The world is ablaze with the glory and the grandeur of God and we are too captivated with sin and self to welcome with thanksgiving in our hearts the countless thousands of God-given wonders around us. We must learn to view the world through childish eyes if we are to be a thankful people.

We must learn to view the world through childish eyes if we are to be a thankful people.

And we must recognize that though we have sinned and grown old, we too are utterly dependent. And we must let our dependence lead us to trust in the King. We need not be consumed by the problems and pains in and around us. The King has come and taken our deserved suffering upon Himself. Then He raised up victoriously over death so that all things— all things sad and broken—will be loosed from the corrupting bondage to sin and into the life-giving care of King Jesus. As I grow older and taste more of life’s pains and become more acquainted with its sorrow, it is increasingly good news of great joy to me that Jesus is King— that He has come to take the worst of our plight upon Himself and that a day is coming when He will make all things new and there will be no more crying or pain or death anymore. Oh I long for that day!

As I grow older and taste more of life’s pains and become more acquainted with its sorrow, it is increasingly good news of great joy to me that Jesus is King.

And until it comes I pray we are a people who are supremely thankful as we trust in our good King with a childish dependence and enjoy our good Father’s good world with a sense of childish wonder.

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