Does God have a deeper gift for us in the rhythm of authentic thanksgiving? How can a season of (maybe) one-off gratitude be transformed into a way of living in all the seasons of the soul? I am wondering as I write; as you read, I hope you'll feel dialogue vibe, not sermon.
We (everyone! everywhere!) are invited in Psalm 100 to sing our way right into God's presence with joy and thanksgiving. We were made for this, we people of God's pleasure.
Lift up a great shout of joy to the Lord! Go ahead and do it -- everyone, everywhere! As you serve Him, be glad and worship Him. Sing your way into His presence with joy! And realize what this really means -- we have the privilege of worshiping the Lord our God. For He is our Creator and we belong to Him. We are the people of His pleasure. You can pass through His open gates with the password of praise. Come right into His presence with thanksgiving. Come bring your thank offering to him and affectionately bless His beautiful name! For the Lord is always good and ready to receive you. He's so loving that it will amaze you -- so kind it will astound you! And he is famous for His faithfulness toward all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for He keeps His promises to every generation! [TPT]
Everyone. Everywhere. All the time. It sounds gloriously noisy, right? Singing, shouting, blessing the beautiful name of God. This belongingness is lovely. It draws me, especially when a spark of joy is already burning, ready to be released.
But what about when we are filled with sorrow, grieving deep loss or swallowed in regret? Or when we're feeling alone in the desert, finding it difficult to hear or feel the Spirit of God? Our mouths might be empty of all but the raspiest whisper.
Is a song of joy sleeping in us even when we have no words to speak? Can we awaken it without pretending a gratitude that isn't real?
Even more: can following this way to joy melt us more deeply into the heart of our Abba? Would it shape us for His delight? Would it change the way we live?
I am thinking maybe "yes." What I notice about this passage is that it is not one bit about how I am feeling, or what my circumstances are. It is an invitation to the presence of God that simply asks me to name and trust His goodness, His welcome, His love, His kindness, His faithfulness.
This is the majesty of Almighty God offering me the intimacy of a holy, healing embrace. The Lord is always good and ready to receive you.
When we are kneeling alone in desert sand, or we do not know what we need, or we aren't even sure He is paying attention, He remains good, kind, faithful and ready to receive us. You and I are people of His pleasure, even then.
Consider that it might be in the honest offering of our true, beloved, self that we are most readily met by God in His tenderness. Be seen. Be known. Be still. Be quiet. Be grieving. Be desperate. In all of that also be received. Be held.
Maybe when it's what we genuinely have to offer, our thanks can be small and whispered. Perhaps in the emptiness and silence of a willing heart, the Holiest of Spirits meets our own with emotional sighs too deep for words and wraps our longings in His full heart of tenderness. (Rom 8:26-27) And maybe that awakens a joy far deeper than anything we could glean from merely joyful circumstances?
My gratitude could be formed here, in the courts of praise, made all about Him. He is good, kind, faithful and so loving it will amaze me. And then I could come, bringing with me whatever is true: joy or sorrow, fullness or emptiness, suffering and the desert. Jesus knows about suffering and the desert. My real heart is welcome. Invited, even. Adored. Belongingness. Belongingness! Aah.
Does this resonate with you at all, reader? Whisper and shout, sing and weep. Dance in sun-drenched green pastures or kneel in the desert. Throw your arms up in abandon or pry open your clenched fists, and offer Him the real you. He sees your longing heart. He is good, and faithful, and always ready to receive you. Come right into His presence with thanksgiving and belong.