Monday, December 9, 2013

As Thanksgiving Approaches

As Thanksgiving Approaches....

October 28, 2013 at 9:23pm

A devotional I wrote the other day on request from a friend for something she is putting together.

I told my husband that being in labor gives me a sliver of insight into why a prisoner of war might finally crack and tell the secrets. Just those few hours of labor about did me in. I can’t imagine being in excruciating pain with no end in sight!

After my daughter was born I just held her there in the birthing tub and thanked God out loud for His goodness – in getting me through a natural labor, in giving me this child, in the incredible lovingkindness He had poured into my life, so undeserving as I am.

After great trials are over it can feel quite natural to thank God – confidently, out loud, no matter who can hear. We praise God because the trial is so fresh in our mind and we so vividly saw God fight for us, carry us, be our Helper, and be our triumphant victory.

But then things slowly shift back to normal. A little while ago my son had the largest diaper explosion I have ever witnessed – probably the largest ever known to mankind. That happened the same time my daughter was wailing. My brother-in-law by mistake shredded my credit card (long story of how that happened… and it takes 10 days to get in a new one). Last night my husband and I had been planning a date night and, as we were walking out the door, there was a work emergency that took so long it caused us to miss going to Brooks Brothers before it closed.

Its not always the large things that so subtly steal our joy, putting our once praising hearts back into the captivity ungratefulness. Its often the small things… hardly even worth mentioning to another, yet significant time zapping frustrations about which I’m going throughout the day fretting. I really don’t want to be an ungrateful woman, but at times that characterizes my heart. Didn’t Paul talk about this… oh dreadful soul I am, doing the things I don’t want to do, not doing the things I do want to do?

There seems to be two major reasons my heart loses its gratefulness. First, when I turn my eyes onto my circumstances instead of God. That’s when the dirty diapers seem so out of control. That’s when missing going to Brooks Brothers seems so irritating (even though that meant we went to the mall instead and now I’m typing while wearing a pretty new pearl ring). But we all have heard that many times… don’t focus on the circumstances… and we all try to catch ourselves from dwelling too long on that negative road.

Here is the second reason and it’s this that we so often miss. Don’t end your focus on the good gifts! That’s dangerous (what happens when you lose a good gift or you see everyone else having something good that you aren’t given at all?) and causes you to miss out on deep joy as a Christian. Don’t get so caught up in the new pearl rings in your life that you miss glorying in your Redeemer. Don’t focus only on what God has done for you, missing taking joy in who He is. You may not always understand His acts, but you can take joy and security in knowing His ways – His attributes, His character. Train your mind and heart to delight in who God is – His faithfulness, His lovingkindness, His goodness, His justice. Meditate on these things and watch how God will mold your heart to live in gratefulness.

This Thanksgiving I am asking God for the gift of a genuine grateful heart focused on His attributes, particularly His lovingkindness. I’m asking Him for this knowing I don’t have it in me. In my own strength I waver away so quickly – seemingly ever so godly and grateful as I held my newborn a few weeks ago, and then sliding right back into normal ungrateful mode.

And so, I pray… Lord, this Thanksgiving may I take hold of the grace and victory you've given me to be able to delight in You, particularly being mindful of the attribute of Your unfailing love. As I do this may You fill my heart with joy. May my heart continually sing Your praises as I glory in You, My Redeemer, My Everything.

And a bit of homework for us…

Perhaps make a list, posting it on the refrigerator, on a mirror, or in your Bible. Daily write out several things for which you are grateful… the people in your life, physical abilities (being able to hear, talk, see), items (just think what life would be like without light bulbs, cement, and refrigerators?) Or, as you are driving, rehearse out loud the material and physical gifts God has given you. But most of all thank God for who He is. It is as we focus on the Creator that we gain a heart of thanksgiving. And it is then, as we turn our eyes to creation – to what He has given His people – our hearts can find joy in praising Him for these gifts as well.