A Glimpse of What’s to Come

This is the final in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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We’re on the doorstep of the Thanksgiving weekend and if your life is anything like mine, you’ve probably had a few things pop up recently that were unexpected and unwelcome. They may be innocuous but inconvenient, or they may be devastating and difficult to recover from.

And sometimes they’re somewhere in between.

As Christians, we understand that we are living in the tension of what is and what is yet to come. We know that one day, all evil will come to an end and Jesus will reign. I came across this powerful picture of the future in Isaiah 60:19-20 (NIV) —

“The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.

Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.”

When Jesus came, we caught a glimpse of what God’s Kingdom will be like. He is the one who binds up the brokenhearted, sets the captives free, comforts those who mourn, and gives beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of the spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:18). How amazing to know that God’s plan moves forward despite attempts to thwart Him!

I’ve been reminded recently that God is the God of the ages. He is eternal and His plans will stand, no matter what our current circumstances may look like. Our days of sorrow will end one day because of Jesus, but for now we as Christians share in His sufferings so that one day, we will share in His glory. I read through Romans 8:16-21 this week and its truth pierced my heart.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (NIV)

Difficult days tempt us to believe that there is no hope and that our circumstances are all there is to this life. Even on a holiday weekend where warm feelings of gratitude ought to overwhelm, we find ourselves holding things that deeply grieve our hearts and make it tough to see the forest for the trees.

In these moments, let us choose joy. Let us choose gratitude. Let us choose to saturate ourselves in the truth of God’s word! Our days of sorrow will end. Jesus has come to bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free. Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!

Happy Thanksgiving! We are blessed beyond measure. Yes, with homes and food and community and loved ones, but even more than that – we are blessed with a Heavenly Father who loves us and pursues us, never leaving us where He finds us, but rather constantly restoring and reconciling us to Himself.

Praise His Holy name!

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A Heart of Thanksgiving

This is the third in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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Want a healthier heart? Count your blessings.

How about a better night’s sleep? Write them down in your gratitude journal before bed.

If you want to be more optimistic, make new friends and get more exercise, make a point of expressing your thanks many times a day.

Research shows us that gratitude is good for our hearts, helps us sleep better, builds our relationships and improves our physical health. There are so many benefits of counting our blessings every single day! We begin to feel more alive when we take a moment to actually remember all the good things we’ve been given. But what about when things aren’t going too well?

How do you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving when you’re wrapped up in the whirlwind of stressful day-to-day demands?

How do you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in a season of loss and grief?

When you’re alone or disconnected? In poor health or experiencing scarcity?

When the stories in the news point to tragedy, evil and seemingly impending doom?

If we’re completely honest, our personal set of circumstances and the global state of affairs can make us feel unsettled. Then October rolls around and we are reminded to feel thankful for the safety of our homes, the satisfaction of our full bellies and the health of our loved ones, but it’s often only because we know it could be much worse. We see lives falling apart around us and feel thankful that we have been spared that kind of suffering, so far. We consider our own difficulties and wonder if things really will be alright after all.

That opportunity to choose to be thankful in the middle of difficulty is good for us. It leads us to the understanding that our thanksgiving needs to be anchored in something much greater than our circumstances or the changing times we live in. We’re not thankful because of what we have or don’t have – we’re thankful because God is good, all the time, and He will always keep His promises.

As Christians, we understand God’s Word to be His revelation of who He is and the primary way we get to know Him. Creation reveals Him as Creator, Jesus reveals God as Father, His Word reveals His character, and when we put our faith in Christ and become filled with the Holy Spirit, He is revealed through His very presence in our lives.

That’s how to begin to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving, no matter what we’re facing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story Jesus told about the Wise and the Foolish Builders in Matthew 7:24-29 (NIV) —

“ ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

The rain will fall, the streams will rise. Giving thanks in the middle of it all takes supernatural power! In this season, let’s move beyond breathing a sigh of relief that we aren’t worse off and begin to understand what it means to build our lives on a solid foundation that won’t crumble under the weight of changing circumstances and the negative news cycle. Let’s discover true thanksgiving that fills our hearts with gratitude no matter what we’ve faced in the past, what we’re staring down in the present or what may come in the future, so that we can say with Paul in Philippians:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

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