Doubt

Putting the Giving into Our Thanks

Blog_HarvestFieldThis Thanksgiving season, we’ll be putting a lot of things in our stomachs. The table will be full one moment; our mouths will be full the next. Before we know it, we’ll be more stuffed than the turkey. But before we put all that extra stuffing into our bodies, why don’t we consider what we can put into our thanks?

“Thanks” is something that’s meant to be given. Sometimes it will be easy; sometimes it won’t. It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going as we desire. But what if things aren’t happening just like we hoped they would? What if the “table” is empty of a mouthwatering feast, and filled only with bitter herbs?

In God’s word, we learn that thanksgiving will sometimes be a sacrifice: “…let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). When we’re going through fiery trials, it can be a challenge to maintain a heart of gratitude. Giving thanks in difficult times may be the hardest thing we’re asked to do, and yet it is the very thing that will help lift the burden of a heavy heart.

When our prayers have not been answered as we expected, or in the timing we hoped for, we can always remember the words of Helen Keller: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but we often look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” I’ve learned from experience that every closed door leads to a greater open door, and that for every unfulfilled longing a deeper need is met. Knowing this can help us to be grateful even for the closed doors in our lives.

Even if all we have has been taken from us, no one and nothing can take away a heart of gratitude. We can understand the importance of being thankful, but it’s not genuine until we actually GIVE thanks—especially when it’s difficult. This Thanksgiving and beyond, let’s celebrate by putting the giving into our thanks.

(Originally posted on the Tears of Joy blog)

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It’s Not in Vain

Blog_FootprintsBeachI love a man named Asaph. Yes, he lived about 3,000 years ago and no, I’ve never met him. He’s one of the lesser-known writers of the psalms. Lesser, I say, because we all know about King David and tend to mistakenly attribute all the psalms to him. But Asaph had a lot to say. And when it comes to those gut-wrenchingly honest psalms, Asaph’s are just about as raw as they get.

Psalm 73 is one of my favorites. Here, Asaph divulges his struggles, zeroing in on a time when his “foot almost slipped.” He’d fallen into the common trap of envy, though in this case he envied the wicked—not because they were wicked, but because they seemed to prosper in all they did.

Why were those whose hearts were bent on evil so graced with problem-free lives? They did whatever they wanted, hurting whoever they wanted along the way, and yet they lived on, “free from common human burdens.”

Oh, how I relate to Asaph. Sometimes, I echo his lament, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.”

I echo this, but I know in my heart that Asaph moved beyond that lament as must I. His thinking was mired in despair until he “entered the sanctuary of God.” It was there, he understood.

There is an end to evil. Though it seems to rise triumphant, it will not prevail, nor those who revel in it.

An eternal perspective transforms our narrow, earth-bound perspective. It elevates our thinking, to remember, “my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

The things of the earth are fading, falling—a mere chasing after the wind. But it is NEVER in vain to pursue the things of heaven while here on earth. Because there will come a day when we will finally see eternity. And it’s gonna be worth it.

“Life will always seem unfair when we measure it by earthly standards of health, wealth and power. But when we encounter God in a personal, intimate way…we can gain a heavenly perspective. We’ll begin to see the other part of the picture—that the rewards of this life are temporary and, as a matter of fact, can even hinder us from discovering what is truly important.” (Philip Yancey & Tim Stafford)

 

Photo Credit: Free stock photo of sea, beach, footprint www.pexels.com

Hope in the Midst of Suffering

Blog_DesertRainbow“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of a table laden with choice food.” (Job 36:15-16)

So often our first response to suffering is to cry from the depths of our hearts, “GET ME OUT OF THIS!” The temptation is to exert all our efforts in pursuing escape. We come out of the fight wearier than we started, our suffering compounded by our disappointment.

Notice the verse above says God delivers us in our suffering, not necessarily from it. When faced with the threat of death by fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded with genuine faith in saying, “the God we serve is able to save us,” while also acknowledging that if he chose not to, they would still worship him. The outcome of their faith was a walk with God in the midst of the fire. They had to go into the fire before they could meet with God in the midst. And they came out unharmed.

John the Baptist faced a similar crisis of faith. In his prison cell, faced with beheading, he questioned whether Jesus was truly the Messiah come to save. If he’s truly the Savior, why doesn’t he save me from the hands of this madman who’s about to kill me? Jesus’ response? “Blessed is the man who does not stumble on account of me.” In other words, we’re blessed when God fails to live up to our expectations yet we continue in faith, knowing his purposes are greater than our own.

God is who he chooses to be, not who we make him to be. He does what he wills, not always what we want. When we embrace this truth, he speaks to us in our affliction, and we’re freed from the restrictions of our expectations. His “wooing us from the jaws of distress” is a picture of what takes place internally—the freedom of joy independent of our circumstances. Whether or not he physically delivers us, we feast on his word—walking closely with him in the midst of the fire…knowing him more intimately as a result, and walking with a more genuine faith when the fire finally dies.

Photo Credit: Desert Rainbow | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Where There’s Life

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Hope will always prevail over doubt. Light will always prevail over darkness.

Life will always prevail over death.

#thereisalwayshope