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Gratitude and a Dead Grouper

Written by Jenny Brake on

I was standing next to it. It was one of the largest ones I’d been close enough to to get a look into its deep and wide mouth. It must have weighed thirty pounds. I’d dreamed of catching one for years. And they taste so good to eat.

My love for deep sea fishing has its origins in a family trip to Clearwater, Florida when I was about twelve. I got hooked on saltwater fishing forever on that trip.

Our family headed back to Florida recently, to Destin, where they host a fishing rodeo all month long. My daughter won a prize last year for the largest lane snapper. We’ve caught all kinds of fish in Destin, but I’d yet to land a big grouper. I was already envisioning it on my tarter-sauced sandwich. I could hardly wait to get there.

 Sadly, I would have to wait another year. While there, Florida’s governor issued a mandatory evacuation. Hurricane Michael was bearing down on the Florida Panhandle. After three days in Destin, we still hadn’t stepped into the ocean. In addition to the hurricane, Destin was also experiencing a natural but unpleasant phenomenon called a “red tide. As its name implies, a red tide occurs when a lack of oxygen discolors the ocean water and threatens sea life. That’s where I came close to that red grouper. It was beautiful, but it was dead. I sure wished I had caught it.

What a waste of sunscreen, beach towels, and fish seasoning. Circumstances like this can sure zap gratefulness from my heart. Nothing to be happy about here, right?  I was in far better shape than that the grouper, but I was feeling ungrateful.

The Spirit pressed upon my heart as if to say, “What does your salty attitude do to your relationship with your Sovereign, Creator God, who created large fish and beautiful sunsets, and who allows fierce storms to come onto sandy beaches?”

I thought, I’m entitled to stew a bit, aren’t I? But when I read Romans 1, I heard another warning sound, one that if not heeded can be more deadly and costly than any category-four hurricane. It­ was a warning for me and for anyone who is fishing in the darkness of unbelief; and who ceases to honor God or give thanks. The tragic disaster of a lack of gratitude has shipwrecked many lives.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom. 1:21-22)”

I think our heart’s rudder sets sail for a damaging course when we stop giving God honor and thanks. Any bump in our lives can start it, whether it’s a disappointing vacation like mine, a job loss, troubled marriage, soured friendship, bad counseling, cancer, or unanswered prayer. Circumstances that are meant to keep eyes and hearts focused on God can cause us to eventually self-destruct.

I’ve seen it in the lives of my friends who once followed hard after God; They were zealous saints who chucked their faith and hunkered down in their unbelief. They now live out their miserable lives much just like the rest of the world, worshiping things other than God. All because they forgot that God is good and always worthy of our thanks.

Lacking gratitude and not honoring God or his Word is not a twenty-first-century thing. It began when the tempter baited Adam and Eve to call God a liar and believe that he was holding back good from them by setting boundaries.

I’ve come to realize that Romans 1 isn’t directed just at the out-in-open pagan evildoers; it’s for everyone—and if you don’t get that in chapter 1, Romans 2 continues the message.

The Red Tide has faded from my nostrils and runny nose, but I want to remember that God is good all the time and that he deserves the honor and praise due to his name.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

Jenny Brake

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