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The heart of thanksgiving

October 4, 2011 No Comment

by Peggy Pedersen

Although the Apostle Paul writes in Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” a harder saying is what he writes in Ephesians 5:20. There he says we should be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….” Yes, you read that right: give thanks not only “in” all circumstances but “for” everything.

I read an account in the book The Hiding Place several years ago where a Holocaust survivor told of being in a concentration camp dorm that had lice. She remembered being taught to give thanks to God for all things. So, without much enthusiasm, she thanked God for the lice. Later she discovered the lice had prevented the Nazi guards from entering the dorm—the only one so “favoured”—because of fear of the lice. This enabled her and others to hide food, etc. without it being confiscated.

Our idea of God’s mercy may not be a plague of lice. We tend to want to tell Him how we want His blessings. When things go wrong, it’s easy to think it’s His punishment or His failure to answer our prayers. We read in the Bible’s Book of Job how his friends tried to analyze why he was undergoing such incredible difficulties. Even Job’s wife told him to give up on God, who was surely cursing him. Bad things happen to good people, and those are the times where it’s hardest to trust in the goodness of God and His intentions towards us.

Let us, in our difficulties, respond with praises and follow Him wherever He leads with joy and trust.

 

Many times when I start complaining about some circumstance in my life, the image of the children of Israel in the desert comes to mind. They complained there were no onions and garlic; they complained there was no meat; they even complained about Moses! In fact, it was kvetch, kvetch, kvetch all the time God was feeding them manna from heaven, leading them with a cloud to shade them by day, a pillar of fire to light, warm and comfort them by night. The Biblical writers tell us, in all that time, their feet never became swollen from walking, nor did their clothes wear out. The Lord God provided them water from a rock, healed them from snakebites and dwelt with them in the tabernacle, and they heard His very voice thunder from heaven. Yet, in the midst of these blessings, all that many of them saw was sand and emptiness.

How like them we are. He is leading us through a wilderness, too, and we are also tested. Even when shown the Promised Land, some came back with dire and discouraging reports. But Joshua and others came back praising God for His bounteous provision. Let us, in our difficulties, respond with praises and follow Him wherever He leads with joy and trust.

In this grace, we acknowledge He is God, His viewpoint is eternal and His plans are perfect

Sometimes it’s hard to see how any good can come from a situation. Yet that’s where God is doing His deepest work, giving us His greatest mercy. He is, after all, hidden in the Cross. Scripture says whoever offers praise and thanksgiving glorifies and honours Him (Psalm 50:23). Calling upon Him when we are in difficulty is truly worship of Him. Why? Because to call on Him means we believe in Him; we believe He is good and will help us, and we believe the promises in His Word. Thanksgiving bespeaks trust in what He is doing, though we do not understand it at the time; praise proclaims trust in Who He is: righteous, just, good and merciful. Faith believes He can and will deliver us, and He truly loves us, for true faith trusts in Him when everything around us seems to contradict His goodness.

When we pray for His help, He doesn’t always answer in the way we expect. It is His mercy that He helps us cling to Him as a ray of light in the darkness and reinforces in us the awareness of belonging to Him and His kingdom, where He rules and controls everything. In this grace, we acknowledge He is God, His viewpoint is eternal and His plans are perfect.

Let these be your words of thanksgiving: “All the works of the Lord are good…. You must not say: ‘This is worse than that; for everything will prove its value in its time. So now, sing with all your heart and voice, and bless the name of the Lord!” (Sirach 39:39-41). And may these words inscribe themselves in our hearts and minds: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job:13:15).

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Peggy Pedersen is a writer in Victoria, B.C. where she is a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church.