As we live in unprecedented times and continue to chart an unforeseen course, our response becomes ever increasingly important. And Scripture has an unrelenting command: be thankful in all things. Be thankful. In all things? But how? And now?
Psalm 136 gives us real reasons for gratitude regardless of our current circumstances. You see, in the midst of the coronavirus, some of you are still fighting your cancer, still battling through an unwanted divorce, still reeling from the miscarriage, still sitting beside the bed of your dying loved one. Some are still wondering if you’re going to be able to graduate on time or pay your bills.
Notice that God does not tell us to give thanks for all things, but in all things.
The only way to give thanks in all things when you can’t give thanks for all things is to find something for which you can be thankful.
Psalm 136 narrows the reason we can be grateful to one thing: God’s steadfast love. Steadfast love is actually one word in Hebrew. It has been translated lovingkindness, mercy, faithful love, grace. The Message paraphrase says “His love never quits.” The word is difficult to interpret because it only can be said of God. God alone is steadfast love.
“God is love” is actually not the same as “God is loving” or “God shows love,” though both of these are, of course true. A God who is loving might be a God who decides to be loving only at times, but no more. The never-lonely, never-needy, majestic and holy God is triune love.–Lewis Allen
God cannot help but show love because He is love. Now to be sure, our human definition of love and the love of God are sometimes far from one another. Psalm 136 qualifies God’s love. From it learn how God showed (and still shows) his love for us.
God loves us by creating.
As I’m writing this I can hear the birds singing. God loves us. The sun is rising, though behind the clouds. God loves us. A gentle rain has fallen during the night. God loves us. Trees are budding. God loves us. Daffodils are in full bloom. God loves us. The Psalmist describes God spreading the earth above the waters, creating the sun, moon and stars. God has created an orderly universe because He loves us. As much disorder and chaos may be going on here, the earth is still spinning on its axis, there are 24 hours in a day, and today is March 16, 2020. God loves us.
God loves us by saving us.
Israel was in Egypt and God brought them out. This is the most oft referred to event in Israel’s history. To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, and brought Israel out from among them, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, to him who divided the Red Sea in two, and made Israel pass through the midst of it, but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, to him who led his people through the wilderness. God showed his love to the Israelites by saving them. If you know Christ, it is because He saved you. You did nothing to save yourself. God sent his only Son because he was the only sinless substitute for your sin.
On my desk in my home office is a small cross made of olive wood. When I prepare sermons I lay it across the pages of commentaries to hold them down. It is foremost a reminder of God’s great saving act in history, and in my life. God saved me when I was lost in my sin, a rebel without reason, deserving his wrath–his lovingkindness.
God saves us by keeping us.
God didn’t bring the Israelites out of Egypt and forget about them. No! A thousand times no! The Psalmist remembers how God kept his people: He struck down great kings, and killed mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to Israel his servant.
God can turn our worst nightmare into an inheritance.
It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever; he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:23-25, ESV)
God has not forgotten you. He knows the news before it breaks, knows the prognosis before the diagnosis, knows the pain before the ache. He has not forgotten you.
One day, by his grace we will look back on this historic time. We will look back on the coronavirus. I ask you (and me too)…how will we remember God?
So today, start writing. Use whatever works for you. For me, it’s a journal. For you it may be a dry erase board. Write every day (and through the day if you must) what you can be grateful for. Get your kids to do the same.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:26, ESV)