Moving Beyond Thanks

Yael Eckstein  |  November 29, 2022

Yael Eckstein hugging a young girl and smiling.

What shall I return to the LORD
    for all his goodness to me?
—Psalm 116:12

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a renowned Jewish theologian, once said, “It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.” Please enjoy these devotions focused on gratitude during this season when families gather to give thanks.

A rabbi I know recently told me the following story. He was speaking to a group of college students who were rediscovering their Judaism. These students, while Jewish, were all raised by families that had strayed from faith. The rabbi was telling the students about the importance of daily prayer and obedience to God’s Word as expressed in the Torah.

While he was speaking, one of the students interrupted him: “Rabbi, I don’t need prayer and all that stuff to have a relationship to God. I know God loves me without all that.” “Really?” said the rabbi. “How do you know?”

“I know because one day, I was riding my motorcycle on a windy mountain road. Out of the blue, a truck came speeding around the bend in the other direction and swerved towards me, causing me to go skidding off the road. I went flying through the air holding one to my bike for dear life and was sure I was going to die,” the student replied. “But amazingly my bike got stuck in a huge broken trunk of an old tree that was sticking up off the side of the road. I escaped without a scratch. It was a miracle, Rabbi. That’s how I know God loves me.”

“Very interesting,” said the rabbi. “Tell me. Why do you think God sent the truck? How should you respond?”

Moving Beyond Thanks

We read in Psalms, “What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?” Every one of us, at some point, has felt the loving hand of God in our lives. When we are the recipients of God’s love and kindness, we certainly feel our faith strengthened. We are moved to thank and acknowledge what God has done.

But as Psalm 116 teaches us, we must also ask the next question. What does the fact that I have experienced God’s love demand of me? How am I supposed to respond? Why did God reveal Himself to me in that way? How can I repay God?

When we experience God’s kindness and love, certainly, we must thank Him. But as the psalmist teaches us, we must also move beyond thanks. We must ask ourselves, “Why did God save me?” “Why did He bless me?” We must use our feeling of gratitude and indebtedness as a springboard to action. We must ask ourselves, “How can I repay God? What does He want me to do beyond my thankfulness?”

Your Turn:

This week, have a discussion with your family about ways that you can repay God for all that He has provided.