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What Happens When You Forget Gratitude?


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How easy it is to forget gratitude!

Many people don’t say “thank you” when something kind has been done for them. Thank you cards are almost a thing of the past.

We simply are not a society that expresses gratitude when someone takes the time to reach out and save us from danger.

In fact,  a shipwreck on the cold waters of Lake Michigan shows that ingratitude has been an ongoing issue for many years.

Not One Said “Thanks” for Being Rescued

On the morning of September 8th, 1860, The PS Lady Elgin, a wooden schooner sunk in the murky waters of Lake Michigan when a smaller boat collided with it.

Over 300 passengers had been enjoying a round-trip sightseeing tour from Milwaukee to Chicago when the tragic accident happened.

Only a handful of people were able to reach the lifeboats.

That morning,  a student from Northwestern University, Edward Spencer, a strong swimmer, rescued 17 people over a 6 hour period until he finally collapsed.

A rope had been tied around his waist as he battled the fierce undertow to reach each person. His brother would pull the rope back over the breakers to bring Edward and another survivor to safety.

Each time he would return to rescue another person.

Edward was left so weakened by injuries in his efforts to rescue these people that he remained an invalid confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Some years after, in Los Angeles, Dr. R. A. Torrey told the story about this young man’s concern and his heroic deed. To his astonishment, he found that the young man, now an old man, was in the audience.

In talking with the rescuer, he asked him what was the most significant thing about the rescue, the thing that stood out most in his memory after all the intervening years.

The rescuer dropped his eyes and in a low voice said,

“Not one said, ‘Thanks’!”

It is incredible that this man saved seventeen lives. That takes great strength as a swimmer, not-to-mention many lose their own life attempting to save someone who is drowning.

He never received recognition or thanks from even one person whom he saved.

What Happens When You Forget Gratitude?

When we receive a gift or act of service from someone, it is because they extended grace.

We live in a society where selfishness abounds and often no thought is given to thankfulness.

The grace given is ignored or the person is totally unaware of the gift.

When gratitude whelms up in an individual’s heart it is because he has felt the debt that he cannot possibly repay enough thanks.

He is intensely aware of the grace extended and gratitude springs up in his heart.

The people who were rescued that September day in 1860 never were appreciative of the death they escaped.

When you forget gratitude you have no idea what you have been saved FROM.

Did I Do My Best?

Is this a question that you ask yourself?

Sadly, most of us are so busy living our lives that we never ask this question!

Although Edward tried to return to college, he was never able to complete his education. Both physically and emotionally he was never able to forget the experience he had that day.

Edward wasn’t concerned that the survivors forgot gratitude.

He never forgot the cries of the people he was unable to save. He often asked his brother, Will,

“Did I do my best?”

Edward Spencer gave of the best of his young life to save people from dying without any of them appreciating what he did for them.

This reminds me of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins without being appreciated for what He did for us.

Even as a Believer, you might not fully feel the depth of gratitude like you ought.

I know I am guilty of ingratitude for my salvation.

When you and I forget gratitude, we are oblivious of the people around us who need to be saved from eternal death.

“Did I do my best?”

“Are you doing your best?”

In 1924 Ensign (his first name) Edwin Young (1895-?) heard Spencer’s story and published a song that draws a spiritual lesson from the incident.

“Did I do my best for Jesus?”

I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
Who died upon the cruel tree?
To think of His great sacrifice at Calv’ry!
I know my Lord expects the best from me.

I wonder, have I cared enough for others,
Or have I let them die alone?
I might have helped a wand’rer to the Saviour,
The seed of precious Life I might have sown.

The chorus heaps question upon question:

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

I want to ask you, have you expressed gratitude to anyone recently? Have you done your best for Jesus?

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