Sunday, November 23, 2014

When I'm Not So Thankful

People are SO pushy this time of year. Seriously. Thanksgiving isn't quite here yet, but I've been "encouraged" all week by my pastor, the local radio station, a few salesladies, and the news media to count my blessings, to be thankful.

"Badgered" might be a better word than "encouraged." It's like in the months of November and December, Christian and non-Christian America alike is saying, "It doesn't matter if you're having problems with the mortgage or if your job is in peril or if all three of your children are crying because two of them peed down their only clean set of clothes and the third one dropped his banana in the dirt--if you're not feeling particularly thankful, it's your fault for not seeing the bigger picture in this season of thanks, so get with the program and be thankful already!"

But what do you do if your smile is fake? If, sure, you're thankful for a roof over your head, clothes in your closet, and food on the table...but truthfully? Your heart still focuses on the "don't have's," on the corrupt, evil people around you whose prosperity and happiness seem to flourish while you struggle daily in silence just to make ends meet?

What then?

I've been stuck on Psalm 73 for three weeks. Yes--three weeks. I've tried to get away from it, but David's words have stuck in my mind like play dough on the bottom of my children's shoes:

"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (Ps. 73: 1-3).

These words grip me. This testimony could easily be mine when everything seems to be going wrong for me (and, as I'm convinced in those moments, only me).

Like David, I know that I know that God is good to those who are "pure in heart," but sometimes, my foot dangles over the cliff as I look into the darkness of sin flaunted openly by people I know...and without knowing it, my heart sparks green envy as I watch them live lives of ease while I seek righteousness yet struggle.

David continues, describing the "wonderful" life the sinful masses seem to lead:

"They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, 'How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?' This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth" (v. 4-12).

In those moments, this is what I envy--the ungodly who have no struggles weighing on their minds, who are chiseled visions of health and strength, whose overwhelming greed reaps enormous wealth, whose actions reap no consequences.

Their mouths speak God's name, post God's name, tweet God's name...they even quote Scripture when it's convenient. But in the next moment, their tongues lap up the fleshly fruits of the earth and feast off the sinful vices that bring worldly pleasure.

Upon seeing these people, David says, "Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments" (v. 13-14).

This is not a thought I've ever voiced, but like David, like Habakkuk, like Jeremiah--I've asked God why the righteous suffer while the wicked seem to go unchecked in their sin. And, if I'm honest, in the asking is a hint of envy at their ease.

When David enters God's sanctuary, though, he remembers who God is--a holy, righteous judge whose very nature requires Him to judge all sin. And in that moment, he says, "Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies" (v. 18-20).

You may not feel thankful every second of this Thanksgiving week. I know my fleshly limitations, and I can promise you that I won't.

But when the grumbly feelings of unthankfulness threaten to consume you, when the green-eyed monster rears his head, when sin seems to go unchecked around you--remember, remember, remember…

Who. God. Is.

Pub. 11.02.10

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