Recently, I was driving in a foreign city known for its aggressive drivers. As I navigated the busy streets, watching people cut each other off, tailgate and make illegal turns, I noticed that, by and large, no one got angry. They all abided by an unwritten “system” that everyone intuitively understood.
I also noticed that almost no one thanked another person in traffic. Gratitude wasn’t part of the system.
Do we drive with a sense of gratitude and grace? When someone allows us to merge, do we give a quick wave of thanks in the rearview mirror?
As I drive throughout Canada, I notice when there’s “driving grace,” the ride is more enjoyable. I’m more likely to create space for the foibles of others. I’m less agitated, the running commentary in my head is more positive and I arrive at my destination in a better mood.
Despair to thanksgiving
“Thank you.” These words can change hearts, alter perspectives and provide hope. Gratitude is so simple, costs us nothing and has a powerful and lasting impact.
This Thanksgiving season, I’m overwhelmed by the goodness of God through the people of God. Life isn’t perfect; I deal with struggles and frustrations, but I echo Jeremiah’s words in Lamentations 3:21–26:
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD (NLT).
Jeremiah’s deepest despair (vs. 18–20) turns to hope as he remembers the Lord.
In his commentary on Jeremiah and Lamentations, F.B. Huey says the writer’s despair “was displaced by a beautiful affirmation of hope in spite of suffering. The basis for renewed hope is God’s ‘great love.’
“Another basis of hope is God’s unfailing ‘compassions’ (rahamim; from a word related to the womb, it describes the tender, caring love of a mother), which are experienced in a fresh and new way every day,” explains Huey.
“Verse 23 is the best-known verse in Lamentations (memorialized by the popular hymn ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’)…. Contrary to the way neighbouring peoples viewed their gods, the Jews now understood their God to be faithful to them, and there is no greater hope than knowing that God is totally reliable.”
Jeremiah expresses his “thank you” to God in the midst of great struggle, reorienting his perspective in the face of great despair. He steps back from the darkness of his state to gain perspective about who God really is, which leads him to hope and gratitude.
People of hope
Hopeful people are grateful people. The presence of Christ in the midst of our pain and disillusionment invites us to hope, which in turn leads us to gratitude. We share our expressions of gratitude not because life is so good, but because God is!
As I reflected on this topic, I began to note some things I was thankful for in this season of my life. The complete list is too long for this space, but I’ll touch on a few
I’m so grateful for the people with whom I work. Local church staff, volunteers and provincial and national leaders who are dedicated, Jesus-loving people. The CCMBC team across Canada who love Jesus and the local church. My senior team who have given their lives to Christ and his cause. Board members who serve locally, provincially and nationally, and give of their personal time with joy and passion. The many prayer warriors who faithfully pray for their pastors, churches and leaders.
And, finally, my family – and particularly my wife Gwen – who support me unconditionally. I value their constant care, wisdom and affirmation more than words can say.
This Thanksgiving season, I invite you to place your hope in the Lord just as Jeremiah did in the midst of his seemingly overwhelming despair.
But don’t leave it there. Pass the hope on. Express your gratitude to those God places in your life – family, friends, coworkers, church family and strangers. Wave a “thank you” next time someone lets you merge into their lane in traffic. Pray grateful prayers for God’s work in your life. Celebrate his faithfulness and daily renewing grace to you and your community.
Praise God for who he is and for your hope in him. And enjoy the ride!