Do you remember why God made the Israelites stay in the desert for 40 years?
It wasn’t because someone had murdered someone else…
It wasn’t because they hadn’t read their Bibles that morning…
It wasn’t because they worshipped a false god.
It was because in the middle of a terrible place, with monotonous food, no hope and a totally unsure future, they complained. It doesn't sound unreasonable to complain in these circumstances, does it?
Let’s not kid around here. These guys had been SLAVES, so they knew hardship. But somehow this place was worse, and even though God had delivered them, given them protection and met their needs, this place was worth complaining about.
How many of you who know someone going through a hard time have thought a little complaining is okay? Haven’t we all said it? “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t complain”, says our friend. We answer, “Hey, I think under these circumstances….”
Apparently there’s more to the story.
It’s not that what we are going through isn’t hard. God is compassionate and full of mercy. He understands when things are hard for us, and he grieves with us, walks with us, and comforts us. But the situation itself isn’t what needs to direct our heart.
Remember what Jesus did when he was attacked, persecuted and ready to face his death? Obviously he didn’t complain (though he was pretty real with God and had every reason to) but what DID he do? Instead he sought a relationship with the Father. He chose to be one with God in heart. To see the BIG picture. To KNOW God.
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil 3:10-11
Because where is there fullness of joy? Even in the middle of hard times?
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Ps 16:11
Pleasures forevermore?! Not only does God long to be with us, but when we respond, he gives us pleasures forevermore?? Fullness of joy? The path of life? Or, more accurately, those are natural in his presence because it’s who He is.
Therefore when we walk with Him, know him and commune with him, gratitude naturally flows.
“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
Make melody to him with the harp of 10 strings!
Sing to him a new song;
Play skillfully on the strings,
With loud shouts.
For the word of the Lord is upright,
And all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
…Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
So if you’re having a hard time mustering up some “thanksgiving” this Thanksgiving, dial it in. It might not feel like it but pure joy is possible, in fact, it’s a whisper away.