All of life is a response to God; we are constantly reacting to Him, every thought and every act resonates with how we feel about Him. Are we responding to Him more out of unmet expectation and disappointment, or in gratitude and thanksgiving? Our core orientation here tends to define who and what we are, as much as anything can.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, deep down all of us know there is a God and that He is absolutely sovereign(Ro 1:20), governing all of life’s twists and turns. (Ro 11:36) We can be angry with Him for allowing sin and death or for not catering to us the way we’d like … or we can stand in awe of Him, amazed at the breathtaking beauty of His Creation, and that He’s willing to die for us, taking our place on an old rugged cross, bearing our sin and shame. Every one of us is constantly responding to an ultimate primal Goodness.
God calls us to respond to Himself with thanksgiving, giving thanks as a constant pattern of life, not in shallow half-hearted gratitude but in passion and sincerity: “rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith … abounding therein with thanksgiving.”(Col 2:7) Cultivating a thankful spirit, learning to trust that God is good, and to experience His goodness and glory even in the midst of darkness and trial, is the journey of a lifetime … one well worth the taking.
A week ago I stood at the entrance of Stutthoff Concentration Camp near Gdansk Poland, where countless souls passed to humiliation, torture and death during WWII at the hands of Hitler’s ruthless minions. As I read the accounts of their pain, and stood where they were actually brutalized, I realized again that I know very little of suffering.
Many of these dear souls were doubtless my brothers and sisters in the faith, who couldn’t just turn a blind eye to the malice against their Jewish neighbors, and others in Hitler’s sadistic disfavor. I wondered if I’d have been strong enough to stand with them. What an evil day that was!
In He 13:3 we are commanded to remember those who are suffering as if we are suffering with them. This high calling of God is not for the faint of heart; it takes supernatural strength to live like this. It is where God Himself dwells, sufferingwith His people. It seems to me an inevitable cure for all selfishness, arrogance, self-sufficiency, lukewarmnessand hardness of heart.
Such evil days are upon us again, as many suffer under the brutal onslaughts of Islam. I ask for graceto connect with this suffering as if it were upon me, and if I live to see the same myself, that God will give me grace to sufferwell, to walk worthy of Him, Whose goodness I cannot deserve.
Life can be overwhelmingly complex sometimes, and incredibly demanding. Keeping focus on what’s important can be quite a challenge.
I am finding it helpful to remember that only one thing really matters: pleasing God. Like Paul, we should be saying, “this one thing I do.” (Php 3:13-14) Maybe this can help us stay focused: if God is pleased, what else matters? If God is not pleased, what else matters … really?
But knowing what is pleasing to God is not so easy sometimes; our ways are not His ways and He doesn’t see things the way we do. He calls us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. (Mic 6:8) He needs to transform our hearts to be like His, and this is a lifelong process. (1Th 4:1) But I think 99% of it is desire: simply wanting to please Him. As this becomes our focus He will show us the way.