“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in my house, as it is in most others across the land. I love this holiday as we celebrate our nation’s earliest days. I love to think about the brave and grateful pilgrims. I love the Thanksgiving memories of my youth, where my brothers and family would sometimes play football in the snow after eating like kings at noon. I love the family and friends with whom we can share the hours. I love this frosty time of year, with the brightening sun on the spectacularly colored leaves.
In all these things, I am so grateful.
And I love the food. Oh! The food! (See where this is going?)
When I read the passage above, it is as though the Holy Spirit is tapping His finger on the words and saying, “Let’s think about this more together.” And so, in rereading them again, I begin to wonder.
I wonder: would I be as thankful as I am today if I were alone tomorrow? If there were no amazing wife and strong sons sitting with me, would my heart be as full?
Would I be as grateful with a bowl of shredded wheat and skim milk as I am with roasted turkey and steaming, savory onion dressing (and pecan pie with a filling so amazing our language, in its inadequacy to describe the flavor as fully as it deserves, apologizes and points to musical accompaniment to compensate)?
Would I anticipate the day with as much fervor if I were facing a dark and cold winter without the familiar security and warmth of my favorite jacket?
Why would I be thankful? Why was Habakkuk joyful?
God wants us to enjoy all that He has provided and, in fact, to be exceedingly and intentionally thankful in our appreciation and enjoyment of His every kindness. But the teaching for me in this passage is that He doesn’t want me to be thankful because of these things, but rather, thankful for Him in them.
This may sound like a theological splitting of hairs, but I think it is important in my life. Here’s why:
If I don’t learn to celebrate God for who He is, I will quickly agree to love Him only for what He does. If I don’t turn my inward, dying gaze outward to Him, I will continue to write the rules of engagement for my relationship with Him. “I will love you if . . . I will thank you if . . . ”
And that isn’t the way to live, and it certainly isn’t the way to love Him.
Habakkuk’s recipe for thanksgiving was not a list of preferred circumstances. It was in the focus on a Person. God was all to him. In Him he found joy, and the joy changed everything.
God wants it to change everything for us, too.
Apart from but in our every circumstance, He wants to remind us of His grace (His amazing, wide and welcoming kindness and grace), to know that He still loves us . . . still is willing to teach us how to live and to love Him and others. The pain in our rebellion is gone. He wants us to see that He accepts us completely without our having to do anything. He wants to remind us of the future He is preparing and is eager to share with us.
He still forgives us. . .calls us “family.” He is delighted.
He wants to be the beginning and the ending of our gratitude.
So this Thanksgiving, I want to start with Him and end with Him. I want to be grounded in a gratitude for my Savior, the One in whom I live and move and have my being. . . for my Heavenly Father, who is all.
. . . and who gives whipped cream, too.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-11