November 2017, Pastor's Perspective

What is Gratitude?



is Gratitude?

by Whitney Alexander

On May 31, my life changed forever . . . in an instant. Driving to New Orleans to prepare three couples for marriage, I dozed off for a moment and an angel of the Lord woke me to see the back of an 18-wheeler within inches of my car. I pulled the steering wheel to the right and prayed instantly, “Dear God, please help me,” and He immediately did. God spared my life and I would begin to receive His gracious blessings.

I crashed into the right side of the truck, peeling the left side of my car, while breaking several bones in my shoulder, hip, pelvis and knee. After the car came to rest in the grass on the side of the interstate, within minutes, a Good Samaritan pulled me gently from the wrecked vehicle and an ambulance took me to a hospital in Baton Rouge.

The first person I saw in the emergency room was a young man whose wedding I had performed a few years earlier. He held my hand and promised me it was going to be okay. The next moment I saw another friend and then a doctor who reassured me, telling me to go back to sleep.

For the next 20 weeks, my family was reminded of the goodness of gratitude. We have been prayed for by thousands of people, many of whom we have never met. My recovery has been because of the prayers of the saints from all over the world. We have recognized that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. The Good Samaritan, people who stopped to help move my body from the wrecked vehicle, doctors, nurses, radiologists, numerous physical and occupational therapists, hundreds of friends who stopped by the hospital, a band of brothers who stayed with me for 40 nights in the hospital (you know who you are), and hundreds of meals, cards, and texts kept us from sinking into despair. We are deeply thankful for the acts of love given to our family.

Our family sees this time as an emotional relationship-strengthening opportunity because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people. Many of our family and friends came to assist my wife Phyllis immediately after the accident. This emotional support was key to our stability and welfare during the trauma of the first few hours.

As the outpouring of love and gifts overwhelmed us, I wondered why we received such an outpouring. I read His word often and realized the Lord’s people are generous and keep giving because of their deep abiding relationship with Jesus. One of our closest friends whispered to me, “Everyone loves your family and wants to support you in this difficult moment.”

As we enter into the Thanksgiving season, may we practice being gracious to our friends and especially our families. Gratitude brings us happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, and is good for our bodies. Grateful people sleep better – and if you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep. Gratitude strengthens relationships, and I believe it promotes forgiveness. The past five months have taught me so much about being gracious and thankful for every person in my life.

My favorite Scripture is Ephesians 3:20: “ Now to Him who is able to do abundantly more than we can ever begin to ask or imagine through the power at work in us.” God has worked through so many. My family is thankful for the aweinspiring love and support we’ve received in the past few months.

whitney alexander600

Whitney Alexander has been an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church since 1999. He began working with missions in 2012. born and raised in new orleans, he was involved with youth ministry and Young Life for 35 years. He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA in December of 2014. He and his wife, Phyllis, have two sons, Andrew and Patrick.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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