Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

The Prison Of Thanklessness


In the book, The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan shares a story from when he was in Uganda. In a little dirt-floored church one Sunday evening the village pastor asked if anyone had anything they wanted to share. A tall, skinny African woman from the back danced to the front,

skitched“Oh, brothers and sisters, I love Jesus so much,” she said.

“Tell us, sister! Tell us!” the Ugandans shouted back.

“Oh, I love Him so much, I don’t know where to begin. He is so good to me. Where do I begin to tell you how good He is to me?”

“Begin there, sister! Begin right there!”

“Oh,” she said, “He is so good. I praise Him all the time for how good He is. For three months, I prayed to Him for shoes, And look!” And with that the woman cocked up her leg so that we could see one foot. One very ordinary shoe covered it, “He gave me shoes.”

The Ugandans went wild. They clapped, they cheered, they whistled, they yelled.

But not me. I was devastated. I sat there broken and grieving. In an instant, God snapped me out of my self-pity and plunged me into repentance. In all my life, I had not once prayed for shoes. It never even crossed my mind. And in all my life, I had not even once thanked God for the many, many shoes I had.

Like Mark, that story just wrecks me. I’ve prayed about a lot of things but I’ve never prayed for shoes. It’s the little things that we take for granted. Things like a roof over our heads, the clothes on our back or the shoes on our feet.

I’m reminded of our little boy Sabato from Tanzania that we sponsor through Compassion International. We exchange letters with him regularly and have been following along with his progress in school. This last letter included this photograph of him.


Did you notice his shoes? He’s wearing girl’s tennis shoes that are at least a size or two small with huge holes in both toes. They’re the kind of shoes we wouldn’t be caught dead with here in the United States. And yet he’s thankful for something to protect his feet (incidentally, we did send money for him to get a new pair of shoes).

How many little things do we overlook every day and miss out on the joy of recognizing God’s provision? This is how Mark Buchanan wrapped up the above story in his book:

Thanklessness becomes its own prison. Persisted in, it becomes its own hell, where there is outer darkness and gnashing of teeth. Thanklessness is the place God doesn’t dwell, the place that, if we inhabit it too often, He turns us over to. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God,” Hebrews says, “and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Thanklessness troubles and defiles many, because first it troubles and defiles the one in whom bitterness takes root.

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