Reflections of Grace
As winter approaches and this year draws near an end, we are experiencing challenging and fearful times. Faced with an uncertain future, it’s easy for us as Americans, and as human beings, to give into the negativity and darkness that surrounds us. From our failing economy and lack of jobs to recent disasters and global concerns, it would seem that there isn’t much to celebrate or be thankful for. Entering the holiday season once again, many people have already decided to glide quietly through, letting it pass by without opening their hearts. Thanksgiving, as celebrated in the United States and Canada, is a time of being close to family and friends, and for simply being thankful. Maybe you’ve had a difficult year, or just can’t think of a reason to celebrate. Although the hour may be dark, there is still light.
Now may be a time where many of us are tempted to throw our faith overboard in order to lighten our load. After all, we must be realistic, right? More people are departing the Christian faith than ever before because they don’t see the relevance of the Biblical God in the modern age. This is most unfortunate, as God is moving in powerful ways in our world today. Maybe for some people experiencing a multitude of hardships, it’s a struggle to find even one thing they’re thankful for. Let’s take time to reflect and meditate on the many blessings that we all have. Perhaps for some, starting with gratitude for the very breath they are taking is the first step. How about the simple joy of life itself, or having that one person in your life whom you are thankful for? For every one thing we are thankful for, allow the meditation of that thing to saturate your heart and soul. In a similar way ‘The peace of God, that transcends all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7). Having an attitude of gratitude cultivates a incredible peace inside us that allows us to go to a deeper spiritual place.
Giving Thanks to God, and one another, isn’t just something nice that we should do during the holiday season so that we can feel good. Releasing thanks to God from our lips is the key to receiving spiritual power and more of the Spirit of truth. Thankfulness opens up the door for true joy to fill us. Contrary to popular belief, joy is not happiness, and it isn’t determined by our external circumstances. True joy, which is an abiding sense of internal happiness, comes as a result of being close to God, and maintaining faith in Him. It originates within our innermost being because of our relationship with the creator. Scripture tells us to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always' (Philippians 4:4). Because of this, giving thanks shouldn't be something that we only do occasionally, or on Thanksgiving, but daily. It's a vertical connection with God that we should continually cultivate.
Thanksgiving shouldn’t be merely a yearly holiday, but a lifestyle. The giving of thanks, like that of love and self, is a choice that we all have. It's a choice that we will have the opportunity to make every day for the rest of our lives. There is certainly no shortage of reasons to give thanks. The countless things that surround us every day give us reasons, and if we take the time to recognize them, they will serve to remind us that there are more good things in the world than bad, just as light is greater than darkness. Seeing something as common as a sun rise, or a starry night sky, we are reminded to give thanks. Creation itself testifies to the divine (Psalm 19), and the variety of human and animal life reinforces this. The unique beauty that every person holds is a reflection of God's divine engineering. Whether you live near the rocky mountains of Colorado, the redwood forest of northern California, the desert of the southwest, the coast of the Atlantic ocean, or the flatlands and plains in between, there is beauty everywhere. As the late song writer and musician Rich Mullins once sang, ‘there is so much beauty around us, and just two eyes to see, but everywhere I go, I’m looking.’
We are spiritual beings, formed from the earth in the image of God, and crafted to desire and seek after things that are beyond ourselves. God ‘has set eternity in the hearts of men’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This means that we were wired for the infinite, and destined for the awesome. This desire is universal, in all of us, from the time we are born. Because of this, anything that we do in life that isn’t motivated by God’s true love will leave us feeling empty. This is our software, our divine programming. There is no way to change this, as it would be easier to turn lead into gold. So let us open our hearts with thanks to the One who knows us completely, and loves us unconditionally. Let us raise our hearts and our minds to His elevation, and allow Him to live in and through us. Let us give thanks simply because we are alive. Let’s start there.
(This articles was originally published in November, 2012 on The Examiner.com website.)