A Handful of Gratitude
One evening while teaching children at my church, I walked by a little boy Jesse who looked sad. I asked him what was wrong. He just shook his head. Since he wouldn't share his problems, I switched tactics. I put my hand out and asked him to count my fingers. His eyebrows went up. I asked him again to count my fingers.
“One, two, three, four, five.” His eyes scanned across my fingertips as he counted.
I asked him to stick out his hand. I touched the tops of his fingers and said, “Jesus, family, friends, food, and books.” I explained that listing things you are thankful for helps you feel better when you are sad. No matter how bad things were, you can remember that there are good things too. Then I had him list five things that he was grateful to have.
“Mom, dad, candy, presents, and fun.” A small smile cracked the edge of his mouth.
“See, that wasn’t so hard.” I smiled back at him.
Honestly, I’d never counted my blessings on my hands before that night, but I’ve found it encouraging ever since. Whenever I saw Jesse after that, I stuck out my hand and had him count his blessings. The exercise brought both of us joy.
Psalm 107:1 says, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” When we realize that God’s mercy never ends, we rejoice to thank God for how good He is to us. Jesse didn’t always list the same five things every time, but he always found something to be thankful for.
My list of things I am thankful for has also changed over the years. Sometimes I just list the first things I think of, but other times I take a more sophisticated approach. I call it a handful of gratitude.
First, I wiggle my thumb. The thumb is the anchor finger to thank God for creating us and writing our stories. For this finger I express gratitude for the greatness of God in the beauty of creation. I look at trees, rivers, or a beautiful sunset to drink in His beauty. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” If God took so much effort to paint beauty across the skies, then He can write the story of my life with loveliness too.
Next, I move my pointer finger. I think of something that points me to back to joy and truth. I thank God for His Word that brings truth into my life. Colossians 2:6-7 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (NKJV). When I abide in the Word of God, His truth keeps me firmly grounded so I can overflow in joy for His character and His love.
My middle finger reminds me of the things that stand above me. Psalm 36:5 says, “Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds” (NKJV). God’s mercy stretches high above me and is vaster than I can conceive. When I rest in the assurance of a love that big, nothing that can out match God’s love.
Then my ring finger stands for commitment. Thank God for the new covenant where my relationship with Him doesn’t depend on me providing animal sacrifices over and over again. Hebrews 9:15 says, “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (NKJV). Jesus made a way for us to be reconciled to God once for all through His death on the cross. God’s love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8) and even when I am not faithful to Him, He will still be faithful to me (2 Timothy 2:13). God’s commitment to me once I surrender to Him ensures me a place in heaven and an abundant life on earth.
Last comes the pinky. This finger represents being thankful for small things I take for granted. Psalm 92:1, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (NKJV). During COVID, my church sent its worship sets over YouTube for us to sing at home. I realized all those times I had sung at church had been a big blessing. Even if it wasn’t the same, I would sing praise to God and glorify His name wherever I was.
In this season of gratitude with Thanksgiving around the corner, I realize that thankfulness is always a necessity. This year has held a lot of unexpected heartache and hurt for me, as I am sure it has for many others. Despite the hardships, God has blessed me so much. My hand is literally attached to my body so I can put it in front of my face for a reality check to thank God instead of focusing on what I lack. May we feel God’s hand on ours as we count our blessings every day.
11/24/2020 05:02:17 pm
The simple beauty of this technique filled me with so much joy as I read your post. Thank you for this wonderful practice. I will be pondering this idea for days. I think this one is going to stick with me. Blessings to you.
11/25/2020 03:19:39 pm
Praise the Lord that He has given you new ways to express thanksgiving and receive joy. I pray it does stick with you and bless you for years to come.
11/24/2020 06:01:36 pm
Now you know you'll have me humming "Count Your Fingers" the rest of the night don't you Ms. Joanna? Oh how I smiled as I read your post. You're right; it works! God's blessings young lady; and Happy Thanksgiving!
11/25/2020 03:21:37 pm
I have to look that song up, because I don't know it. I do enjoy the song from Holiday Inn about how when you can't sleep that you should count your blessings instead of sheep. That one makes me happy.
12/6/2020 08:59:56 pm
That's because the song lyrics should have been "Count Your Blessings" Ms. Joanna. LOL... Freudian slip I'm afraid.
11/24/2020 08:15:50 pm
What a great example of remembering to be thankful. That example can help us all, not just little Jesse.
11/25/2020 03:22:52 pm
God taught me that day to remember things I was thankful for, and now I am glad I can pass it on to others too.
11/24/2020 11:55:14 pm
As I was reading your post, I found myself using my fingers to count my blessing. Sometimes, I forget to do that. Thank you for this inspiring reminder. Loved your story of Jesse. We make a difference in the lives of our children and church family--it's our calling. Thank you for your service.
11/25/2020 03:25:45 pm
I watched Soul Surfer the other night, and realized that even having five fingers on my hand to count is a big blessing. Sometimes, I had to start using my other fingers and toes to realize how good God is to me when I think about it.
11/25/2020 10:21:14 am
This was just a wonderful example of making thanksgiving a way of life. I will need to re-read and practice this one! Thank you.
11/25/2020 03:28:32 pm
I find the more thankful I am for what I already have, the more peace I have about what I don't. God knows my needs better than I do, and will provide what I need and nothing less.
11/27/2020 05:05:44 am
Beautiful illustration. Don't you love it when the Lord gives you an onthespot idea.
11/28/2020 04:33:26 pm
The Holy Spirit is so good to help us figure out what to do in moments when we are unsure how to move forward.
11/28/2020 04:34:06 pm
We can all use the lesson to be grateful no matter how old we are.
12/5/2020 10:57:53 am
What a beautiful post of joy and encouragement. Thank you for sharing Jesse's story and having that idea. I like what you chose to associate with each finger and I'm going to try it.
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Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Florida.