God invites us to come to him and acknowledge our needs, and then he responds to them, not always in the same way, but in his way. One day Jesus encountered ten lepers who stood at a distance and called out to him, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests" (Luke 17:11-14). Then the narrative says “And as they went, they were cleansed.”
People thought of lepers as having an incurable disease, and to keep the community safe, lepers had to abandon all normal interaction and live by themselves. They couldn’t even be with their families. They lived as outcasts outside of the walls of the city. When they walked anywhere, they had to call out “Unclean.” Jesus was moved by their need and responded to it with compassion. If we want God’s help, this is how we get it. We start by acknowledging our need and asking for his intervention.
Once while I was away from home and in California and my family was back in Puerto Rico, I received a call from my son Eric. He said, “Dad, we’ve got a serious problem; we locked the keys in the car. I know you have an extra set under the car, but I can’t find them. I don’t know what to do.” I simply told him how to lie down and which arm to lift and in which direction to move it until he found the keys. That’s how it works with God; you start with “I don’t know what to do.” “I need help.” “I’m desperate.” “I have a serious problem here.” You see God knows what to do, but he won’t help until we acknowledge our distress.
However, as the lepers went, they were not yet at the temple but while they were on their way, something incredible happened. All ten of them were miraculously healed. Toes grew on feet that were toeless and fingers on knobby hands. Faces became recognizable once again. They all continued on their way to the temple to see the priest. But one of them when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and came praising God in a loud voice. He was seized with an irresistible urge to share his gratitude. The priest, the temple it all could wait while he personally took time to thank Jesus for what he had done. He parted company with the rest to do this.
The one who went back was a Samaritan, and the others were Jews. He was the unlikely one to make the trip back, but he did. It’s a journey that you travel out of gratitude. Unfortunately, most are not overwhelmed with what God has done for them. They simply journey on in forward motion and find a routine of life, but in this story here is one who comes back. He can’t go on until he comes back to God to say thanks (Luke 17:15-19). The other nine missed a rare opportunity to experience one of the most exhilarating emotions—that of being thankful and sharing your gratitude to God. What a missed opportunity! But the one who came back shows us the way.
There are times in my life when I am overtaken with gratitude to the one who has done for me what I could never have done for myself. I am stopped in my tracks, and for a few solitary moments I can see with different eyes how fortunate I am. I can see what God has done for me. I can look at my life and see the many places where he has said “This way, son.” I can look at my family and say “Thank you, Father.” When these moments happen, I have to stop and go back to say thanks.