Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

”How are you?” I routinely ask. And I routinely hear this enthusiastic response: “I’m blessed and highly favored.” “Hmmm,” I thought the first dozen or so times I heard this from my clients at the Sharing Life Community Outreach food pantry. Clients. People living on the edge. Food insecure. I see their very modest incomes, and their presence at the food pantry tells me they aren’t quite making it. If anyone deserved to feel like they were being punished, these would be the ones. But they say they are “blessed and highly favored.” When I started serving there I knew I would have a lot to learn from these folks, and as I’ve come to know my clients over the years, I’ve found them to be some of the best people I know.

I’ll confess that I don’t completely understand how it is that so many live in a state of perpetual joy, despite the meager trappings of their lives. However, there are some things I’ve observed that I think help explain it. So many of them are very grateful people. They don’t swim in thoughts of their misfortune or thoughts that they are being punished. They swim in — they positively drown in — thoughts of their blessings. If they mention they are experiencing something difficult, it is just an aside, followed by a “but God” that diminishes their suffering. And they take very seriously the love of God. Many seem to live and breathe the old Sunday school song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Countless of these joyous ones have made the decisions to accept this as simple fact, and don’t bother themselves with questions about whether they deserve the love. I suspect that if I asked, they’d say, “Of course I don’t deserve it, and that makes it all the sweeter.”