BY T. F. TENNEY
A book called “Simple Abundance” has been listed on non-fiction Best seller for over a year now. It’s companion book, the “Gratitude Journal” is a top seller as well. The premise is simple. If you practice an “attitude of gratitude” your life will become richer, fuller and more enjoyable. The journal helps you simply write down five things each day that you are grateful for. I don’t know whether the author of these tomes realizes it or not, but giving thanks –
especially giving thanks to God – is a very sound Biblical principle.
I received a copy of a Thanksgiving message by Wayne Brouwer a pastor of another denomination in Holland, Michigan. He opened his message with the story of an elementary school teacher who was trying to teach thankfulness to her students. She asked them to make a list of the things for which they were thankful. She walked up and down the aisles peering over the children’s shoulders as they made their lists. She was intrigued when she came to Chad’s desk. Number one on his list was “Glasses.” She said, “Chad, I’m so happy to see you are thankful
for your glasses. Why are you thankful for them?”
He said, “Well, they keep the boys from hitting me and the girls from kissing me.”
Not a bad reason to be thankful.
Pastor Brouwer went on to quote Helen Keller – who was both blind and deaf. She said, “I have often thought that it would be blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time early in adult life. The darkness would make him more appreciative of sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.”
His message goes on to center on Psalm 22. The first 21 verses bring to mind Jesus on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Verse 6: “I am scorned by men and despised by all the people. Verses 7 and 8: “All who see me mock me. They hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord. Let the Lord rescue him’ ” Verse 14 says, “I am poured out like water. All my bones are out of joint.” Verse 15, “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” You see Jesus in these scriptures. He said, “I thirst.” The soldiers cast lots for his robe calling to mind of the Gospel writer verse 18 of Psalm 22: “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
Those first 21 verses of Psalm 22 are words of tragedy and struggle. Yet the chapter ends with words of thankfulness and praise. We’re too often willing to sing the songs of thankfulness – when things are going our way, when we prosper, when we are happy on our journey. Then, when things are not going our way, when we experience poverty and loss, when sadness and sorrow have come our way, thankfulness seems to disappear. Pastor Brouwer said, “That’s often the way it is for us. It’s one or the other. The good or the bad. Thankfulness or curses. The wails of verse 1-21 or the laughter of verse 22-31. We have a hard time keeping Psalm 22 together.”
He went on to say, “It appears as if only those who believe in God are truly thankful. They are the only ones who have the capacity for it. Mary Ann Vincent once wrote “the atheist’s most embarrassing moment is when he feels profoundly thankful for something, but can’t find anyone to thank for it.”
However, that’s not quite right either He goes on to note, “Ours is great nation because so many of us are Christians? Only those who have faith can be grateful? When I look at Psalm 22, I’m beginning to understand this the other way around .. Maybe that’s what holds the two sections of this psalm together … It’s not that believers are grateful to God but that those who are grateful to God are the ones who truly believe in Him Only those who are truly thankful are able to ride out the storms of life, which might otherwise destroy us. Only those who have an attitude of gratitude know what it means to believe.”
On Thanksgiving Day this year, some will be celebrating their last Thanksgiving. Some will die in tragic accidents; others will succumb to the ravages of disease. Some of us will lose our spouses. Some of our children won’t make it home again. Some of us will be betrayed by our friends. Some of us will pray, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And that’s when we’ll need Psalm 22. Thankfulness and faith go hand in hand.
David, in effect said. “I am not thankful because he’s given me things. I believe in him because it is right to Him thanks end when I can’t point to anything specific – even when the chips are down, even when I’m surround by those troubles I speak of in the first twenty-one verses…”
Then there is Job. The enemy says to God, “Job serves you because you give him everything he wants. If you’d take everything away from him, he’d curse you.” God allows the things to be taken away and the enemy gets a surprise ending to the story. When everything is gone – including his health Job cries out like David, “My God, why did you
forsake me?” but he doesn’t stop there. Job 27:10 – in the middle of his tragedy Job can say, “I will find delight in the Almighty; I will call upon God at all times.” Thankfulness is what undergirded the faith of Job – the faith that saw him through his trauma to ultimate victory.
Dear Abby, the newspaper columnist has a Thanksgiving prayer she publishes usually every fall: “Our heavenly Father, we thank you for the food and remember the hungry. We thank you for health and remember the sick. We thank you for friends and remember the friendless. We thank you for freedom and remember the enslaved. May these remembrances stir us to service that your gifts to us may be used for others.”
Psalm 22 takes us deeper into thankfulness than that. It goes beyond lists of things – and says, “thank God for God.” As Pastor Brouwer put it: “When all of the lists have been crossed off end all of the blessings like those of Job have been withdrawn, and all of the prosperity vanishes, there’s only one hope left … Verse 24: “God has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one. He has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” In other words, thank God for God, because that is where faith begins, not where it ends. Only the grateful believe, and faith itself which seems to soar in times of prosperity needs the strength of thankfulness to carry it through the dark night of the soul.”
The year was 1637. The trinkets of life were gone and Eilenberg, Germany found itself being tossed back and forth by armies from different powers as Europe was at war. Three times during that year it was attacked. When the armies left, refugees poured in. Disease was rampant. Food was scarce. Martin Rickard was the only pastor in the city. His journal indicates that he conducted over 4,500 funerals that year sometimes as many as 40-50 per day. Death was constant. Surely no Thanksgiving celebrations would be held. Yet, Christians around the word still sing the song of Thanksgiving and faith he penned that year. When the bottom drops out, it is our relationship with God that goes
beyond thanklessness and becomes the source of faith.
Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices
Who wondrous things has done
In whom his world rejoices.
Who from our mother’s arms
Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love
And still is ours today.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE CHALLENGER, PAGE 3, NOVEMBER, 1998. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.