I only heard about the Boeing 777 crash landing at Heathrow last last night. Undoubtedly the pilot’s skill in landing the plane so safely is to be commended. The lack of serious casualties stands in stark contrast to many plane crashes in recent years. One ITN reported concluded his news report with words like, “tonight the passengers have much to be thankful for.” Indeed they do, but to whom?
Perhaps comments like, “Thank God we’re down safely,” were made by some of the passengers. But I wonder if they were mere expressions of relief rather than genuine thankfulness to the living God.
To be thankful must imply someone to be thankful to. It is not possible to be truly thankful without someone to whom that thanks is addressed. There is a world of difference between exclaiming, “Thank God!” and “Thank you, God!”
As the news report ended, my wife noticed her mother sitting with eyes closed. Thinking she had dozed off in her chair, my wife thought she would waken her as it was time for bed, only to be told she was thanking God for the safety of the passengers and crew. That is the difference between “Thank God!” and “Thank you, God!”
Before I went to bed myself, I read another few pages from G. K. Chesterson’s Orthodoxy, where I came across these words:
The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts or toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Clause when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth? (p. 52, Image Books 1959 reprint)
It’s a common Irish expression, “Buíochas le Dia,” or “Thanks be to God!” When we say it, may we direct it intentionally to the one who deserves it.