Learning Thanksgiving the Hard Way

Over the many years since I first came to know the Lord, He has led me down some hard paths.  Some of them might not have been so hard if I had learned early on to trust Him.  Throughout my life, trust has been the thing He has had to teach me over and over again.

I have found that there are unlimited ways not to trust Him, and sometimes He seems to be taking me through each and every one of them.  It doesn’t seem to be something I can learn once, and have an end to it, remembering it forever after.  Instead, I seem to need to learn it again and again in almost every situation, because each situation has its own disguises.  My problem may seem to be about one thing, and it isn’t until I really get into it that I see that the bottom line is, once again, a lack of trust.

Perhaps if I were smarter or more willing to let go of my control over the circumstances of my life, or more willing to be humble and not defensive, or to be more flexible instead of so rigid, things might have gone easier.  Each episode of having to learn to trust in Him also brings some new revelation of how invested I am in having things my own way, or the lack of some of the fruits of the spirit.  There is a paradox involved: I have known Him for over sixty years, and I can truthfully say I know I am closer to Him now than when I first began this faith journey.  At the same time, each year brings deeper and deeper revelations of just how far I am from being conformed to the person of Christ.  I am slowly moving forward, but at the same time always seeing how much farther it is that I still have to go.  It is like a mirage – I can see the goal in the distance, but at each revelation of my own self-centeredness and pride and desire for autonomy, the goal seems to be even farther away than I had ever dreamed.

I think this is a part of the refining process which God uses to let me understand the depth of His grace.  I am learning just how much God has hated my sin, but loved me.  When I was first saved, although I certainly knew I needed a Savior, I was only fifteen, and had hardly lived a life of depravity.  I was a gentle, moral person.  I fully recognized that I was a sinner needing forgiveness, but deep down thought maybe I wasn’t as bad as some other people.  I was sorry for the sins of which I was aware, but at the same time was just a little complacent about believing that although I was definitely a sinner, I still thought of myself as a relatively “good person”.  I was trying to justify my own sin, and minimize it so that I didn’t have to face the real willfulness, anger, resentment and pride underneath my mild outer facade.

Gradually, as I began to know Him, and put myself under His tutelage, He began to strip off my masks, and over and over as I came face to face with me seen through His eyes, I was horrified to see what was hidden there.  I have had to face many of my uglies, and been so overcome with remorse that I have thought surely I must now have come to the end of seeing how great my sin.  Yet, He continues to peel away more and more layers, and each layer is harder to face.  We are now, in old age, getting down to the core of the onion.  I am forced to see just how much I indulge in self-deception and how many disguises pride and self-will may take, and just how much He has had to forgive.

All of this only leads me to the realization, growing deeper and deeper, of how much I owe Christ.  When I really begin to understand the nature of holiness, and the depth of God’s hatred of sin, and the essence of my own nature, I see that God has shown an infinite amount of grace in choosing to forgive me at all.  His grace is shown even more in the cost of sending His Son, His only Son, and in Christ having chosen willingly to submit Himself to the sacrifice of having my sin attributed to Him… and paying the ultimate price.  He knows me; He understands my self-driven ways; has seen over and over how I choose to refuse to trust Him and insist on going my own way – and He still chooses to love me.

My only response can be that of gratitude and thanksgiving.  I have some idea of what my life would have been without Him in it.  I owe Him everything; not just for my salvation, or on the basis of the fact that all I have is from His hand, and that He owes me nothing, but also from the fact that He has actively intervened in my life at times to call me to trust and obedience because He knew where I would end up if I had gone my own way.  He has been teaching me patience and endurance, supported me and held my hand, healed my wounds and is still teaching me to love, and I have learned to see at least a little of the depth of His love and how little I deserve it.  Grace upon grace.

Thank You, Father, for continuing to love your faithless and untrusting creatures.  Thank You for Christ Who has chosen to take our sin on Himself and accept our just punishment, and yet continues to love us.  Thank you for Your grace which has broken down the barriers between us and the holiness of Your character, and given us access into Your presence.  Please forgive us our sins, and continue to try to lead us in the paths of righteousness.  I acknowledge my lack of trust and my self will and my pride, and ask You to continue stripping me of everything that would take me away from loving You… even though I have known You long enough to understand from experience what that might involve.  My prayer is that I may really know You, and continue to learn trust and obedience and love from Your bountiful hand.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.  Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!  For His mercy endures forever.  Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!  For His mercy endures forever… Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 136)






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