“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
Ashes. Solemn faces. Wednesday evening services. Lent is traditionally the time when followers of Christ choose something to give up as a way of remembering the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We spend 40 days with an acute awareness of our sin before a Holy God. It is intended to be preparation for Easter.
More meditations on gratitude throughout Lent will follow from me, including gratitude for God’s discipline, gratitude for prayer, gratitude for God’s protection, and gratitude in suffering.
Rather than give something up, like chocolate (how cliché, right? But seriously, I need to do that too) I decided that adding something to my routine and daily living would be more beneficial. If you know me at all, I rarely do anything the conventional, or “easy” way because it’s not challenging enough. The Lord tapped me on my heart the other day and whispered gratitude in my ear.
He is calling out my sin. But it doesn’t feel like a spanking and “go sit in the corner and think about what you did” scolding reprimand. I’m learning that when God draws attention to my sin, it’s actually an act of grace, and an invitation to repent and grow in trust.
Ingratitude has been a struggle for most of my life. I have always had an unhealthy tendency to focus on what seems to be lacking and complain rather than appreciating what I already have.
Ingratitude is like ice. It makes our hearts hard and cold and leads to bitterness and resentment. I have spent a lot my life “frozen” there brought on by issues beyond my control. When we’re “frozen,” we can’t move forward. Below the surface of ingratitude is entitlement, which is thinking we deserve more than we do, and that’s dangerously close to pride. It’s time to humble ourselves under the warmth of God’s forgiveness.
Gratitude isn’t just about list making or changing our attitude. It isn’t about thanking God for our comfortable lives and enjoying his blessings, or when our days go exactly as planned.
That’s a start.
That’s level one.
But we need to go deeper.
How often do we pause to thank God when we have spilled hot coffee on a new white blouse? When our pre-schooler has launched into her third temper tantrum for the morning? When the house is a mess and the dryer just broke down? When loved ones pass away and the stock market crashes and wars rage on. When the Lord interrupts our comfortable routines? We don’t thank him for our disappointments, our sorrows and even our failures, do we? It’s harder.
But we need to go deeper.
It’s a lifestyle. It’s a daily demonstration of appreciation to God and then others, no matter what our circumstances are, so that we can worship him whole-heartedly. Genuine gratitude is the pathway to sincere joy and worship.
So why don’t we put this into practice? We either take people or circumstances for granted or we don’t like the behavior of the people who perhaps need to feel appreciated the most. Have you ever searched for a way to thank someone who behaved rather thankless toward you? We are ungrateful toward God all the time, yet He never gives up on us.
Most of the book of Isaiah is about the Lord commissioning the prophet to speak words of upcoming judgement to Israel because of their grotesque sin, yet the people refuse to listen and repent. But God loves his people too much to allow them to stay in sin, and that is something else to be grateful for. After judgement, God speaks comforting words to his people because he is compassionate and merciful and faithful.
Now that I am a parent, God’s willingness to draw his misbehaving people, including me, back to him moves me to tears of gratitude. In the same way, I draw my own kids back to me even in the midst of their ingratitude and disobedience.
Now it is time to list my blessings: I’m thankful for clean, unpolluted drinking water, for hot water in which to bathe. I’m thankful for a comfortable home and two healthy children who are full of energy, imagination and creativity. I’m thankful for my garage and the door that I can open and shut from the convenience of my mini-van (am I spoiled or what?). I’m thankful for my wood-burning fireplace and a husband who doesn’t mind hauling in the wood or cleaning out the ashes because we both love the aroma and sight of burning wood. I’m thankful for the kindness of neighbors. I am grateful to be enjoying a middle-class standard of living in suburban America while in other parts of the country and the world, thousands are living in poor health and poverty.
Now it’s your turn to list blessings. What are you most thankful for and why? Who do you need to show some appreciation to?
Dear Heavenly Father,
I am grateful for your endless compassion and patience. I am grateful that you call out sin, not to condemn and destroy, but as an act of grace and love to draw us back. I pray that the words I speak and my behavior will grow warmer and kinder to my loved ones and any others you place in my path. I pray that you will help me to see and appreciate the blessings you have already given me and not long for anything else to be different. In Jesus name, Amen.