Struggling for Thankfulness This Year?

This year has been a strange one, and I wonder as you reflect back on all the hardship of 2020 whether you are struggling to find reasons to give thanks.

Traditionally, Christmas is the holiday that gets all the songs and carols and hymns. November 1st, radios start dusting off the ol’ yuletide catalog. But biblically speaking, songs are the natural outpouring of thanksgiving (Colossians 3:15-16). Perhaps a song might put us more in the thanksgiving spirit.

The Lord Is My God.

In 2 Samuel 22, David surveys his life, his heart swells with thankfulness, and he speaks to the Lord the words of this song:

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation,

my stronghold and my refuge,

my savior; you save me from violence.”

2 Samuel 22:3-4

Twelve times in these two verses David sings, “my.” The Lord is my God. Perhaps the reason you are struggling and feel thankless is because you cannot in your heart sing these words: “The Lord is my God.”

When David sings about his God, he compares him to a place of safety, rescue, refuge. When disaster struck this year, where did I seek refuge? In my God? Or in something else?

David reminds us that God is not ours on our terms: “My Savior; you save me” (22:3). We cry out to our God from a place of helplessness and need. Last night, my 7 month-old Peter was laying in bed next to me, and he reached over and grabbed my finger with his whole hand. That’s the way we possess God. My means, “I belong to him.”

I Called Upon the Lord.

As David continues to reflect, he remembers being surrounded by trouble, enemies, and menacing circumstances on all sides:

“I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,

and I am saved from my enemies…

In my distress I called upon the LORD;

to my God I called.”

2 SAmuel 22:4,7

Such a simple thing–“I called upon the Lord.” But how often don’t we? We don’t call. We don’t pray. We don’t cry for help.

Why?

Some of us don’t call on the Lord because we don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We think we can handle it. We don’t want to bother God with it.

But if it feels oppressive, if it feels life-threatening, if it feels like its choking you at every minute, if it sucking the life out of you, if you feel like you are drowning, why are you treating it like it’s no big deal? John Gill writes, “A time of distress is a time for prayer; and sometimes the end God has in suffering [us] to be in distress is to bring them to the throne of his grace…”

Others of us call, we just don’t call upon the Lord. We think that a boyfriend will save us, a spouse will be our salvation, a job will rescue us from our distress, a bailout will be our refuge, some new toy will save us from our sadness, a new church will deliver us from our depression.

Listen to David’s song: “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised...” It’s his greatness, his worth, his majesty, his power that draws our cry.

If you were being attacked and you had to choose either a Chihuahua or a Rottweiler to come to your defense, which one are you going to cry out for?

Why are you crying out to your co-workers or your phone or your social media followers? Can any of them do anything about your distress? Cry out to the God who dwells in ineffable might, unassailable power, impenetrable victory, untarnished splendor, and terrifying power.

When I was in grade-school, my family lived in south Florida. At the beach one day, my dad was out surfing and I was watching from the shallows. I was distracted and a strong swimmer, so I didn’t notice how every wave was slowly drawing me further down the beach away from my dad, and further out to sea. Suddenly, I couldn’t touch, and a strong undertoe started tugging me under. I remember a sense of panic settling in like, I’m not gonna make it.

I start hollering, “Dad!” Every time I come up for breath. “Dad!” “Dad!” But it’s loud and he’s hundreds of yards away. And I’m giving up hope. Suddenly, a lifeguard grabs me from behind, and next thing I know, I’m laying in the sand.

You and I don’t cry out to the Lord because we don’t know what’s got ahold of us. We think sin is just a little thing. Just a little lie. Just a little stealing. Just a few careless words here and there. Just a little porn. David shows us the truth:

“”For the waves of death encompassed me,

the torrents of destruction assailed me;

the cords of Sheol entangled me;

the snares of death confronted me.”

2 Samuel 22:5-6

Sin is trying to drag us into an eternal Hell. Death has ahold of each of us, sending its tendrils out of the grave to latch onto us and drag us kicking and screaming to a watery grave. Do you realize what’s dragging you under? If you did, you’d be crying out, “MY GOD, MY GOD! SAVE ME!”

He Hears My Voice.

You may feel like this is the last time you are coming up for air before you sink forever. When you call upon the Lord, he will hear. He will hear, and he will come down, and he will find you:

“From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry came to his ears.”

2 Samuel 22:7

This is how the infinite God bestows dignity upon us, his finite creatures: He listens to us. Say this to your soul with David and feel thanksgiving begin to rise: “He hears my voice.”

My voice matters to the Almighty God. Your voice matters to your Maker.

There is a stirring in heaven in response to my voice. And this is what the stirring of my God looks like:

“Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry.

Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth;

glowing coals flamed forth from him. 

He bowed the heavens and came down;

thick darkness was under his feet. 

He rode on a cherub and flew;

he was seen on the wings of the wind. 

He made darkness around him his canopy,

thick clouds, a gathering of water. 

Out of the brightness before him coals of fire flamed forth. 

The LORD thundered from heaven,

and the Most High uttered his voice. 

And he sent out arrows and scattered them;

lightning, and routed them. 

Then the channels of the sea were seen;

the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD,

at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.” 

2 Samuel 22:10-16

The response of God to our cry for help is an earthquake crossed with a forest-fire crossed with a thunderstorm crossed with a tornado crossed with a volcanic eruption crossed with a lightning storm crossed with a hurricane.

When he hears my voice, he bends the heavens and parts the sea. Wherever you are in this vast cosmos, whether on some far-flung planet or in the bottom of the ocean, if you call out to him, he will find you. His salvation will search you out.

This thanksgiving, in the midst of turmoil and distress, one thing should make our hearts sing: We have a God who hears us.

(photo credit)

Published by Chad Ashby

Pastor at College Street Baptist Church Newberry, SC

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