How can You Replace the Weight of your Burdens with the Wonder of Living?
(A Reflection on Thanksgiving)
One day, Matthew Henry (a well-know Bible scholar and the author of the prominent Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary) was traveling on horseback to a church meeting where he was invited to preach as a guest speaker. Suddenly, a masked robber, who was armed, jumped out of the forest, cocked his gun and stopped him. While threatening to shoot him, this thief ordered the preacher to get off his horse and hand over all the money he had. Matthew Henry didn't have much money in his pocket. But in obedience to the robber, he quickly took out his wallet and gave it to him. Thereafter, the thief ran away with it into the forest.
Matthew Henry was grieved by the loss of his wallet and the money it contained. But as he continued on his journey, he thought about the command of God that is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which says that “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
If you have ever been robbed or cheated, you probably know that this is a very painful experience! So how can you give thanks when you have had a bad experience or in the midst of a difficult circumstance like this?
In the sermon he preached that day, Matthew Henry concluded it with the story of the robbery and how he could be thankful. He said, “First, I am thankful I have never been robbed before. Second, I am thankful that although the robber took my my money, he did not take my life. Third, I am thankful that the robber did not take more; he could have taken my horse and my clothes as well. Next, I am thankful that although this robber took all the money I had in my pocket, it was not very much. Then I am grateful that what I lost, in time, can be replaced. But, finally, and most importantly, I am thankful that I was the one robbed and I was not the robber!”
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
William Shakespeare once said, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child."
Ingratitude toward God is the first step toward backsliding from God. We see this in Romans 1 where the Apostle Paul is described the path that people take in departing from God. The first step he gives on the list is an attitude of ingratitude. Paul says, “Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” (Romans 1:21).
"In Everything, Give Thanks." Is this Really Possible for You Too?
If you asked wives and mothers to give you things that they would like you to pray for, one common theme that you will receive in their prayer requests is "that I wouldn't become weary".
In taking care of their homes, these precious ladies engage daily in tedious and seemingly mundane activities. They wash the dishes. They care for the kids. They cook breakfast, lunch and supper. And they do many other routine things that have to be done on a daily basis.
An unemployed wife or mother who stays at home looking after her family will do the same things today that she did yesterday and will likely do those same things again tomorrow and over and over again throughout her life. Along the road of doing these tedious and repetitive tasks, the wife might find these activities boring and she might become dissatisfied with this kind of life. Is it possible then, for these wives and mothers to be truly thankful and truly enjoy life even in the midst of this humdrum? Is it poossible to enjoy the "meaninglessness" of life under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8).
Here is the game changer! As a wife or a mother, there is a shift that might occur in your life. In the beginning, you might feel that your "boring" duties are something that you have to endure or do painfully. In the process, you may forget any potential for enjoyment as far as their execution is concerned. You may even reach the extent of thinking that there is no pleasure that can ever be found in doing these duties. Your daily routine is just something that has to get done in misery.
But then... Little by little... Or perhaps all at once... If you begin thinking about how blessed you are for what you have; thinking about how blessed you are to have even a family to care for, this thought can be a game changer even in the midst of your most tiresome tasks.
Take it out for a spin. When the feeling of having no choice, the feeling of "I have to..." puts a cloud over your seemingly mundane, repetitive and tiresome or frustrating tasks of your everyday life; re-direct the narrative with "how blessed I am to get to..." Try this and see. I am convinced that it will make a difference in your life. The grumbling feeling of "I have no choice, I have to do this" will fade. Instead, it will be replaced with the feeling of serving with gratefulness and thanksgiving. And you will be amazed at how the core of tasks and the weight of your burdens in life will be replaced by the wonder of living.
The next time you feel grumpy about a task, try looking at it with a different lens. Think about the mind boggling wonder: that you are even here at all — that you exist! You too, like Matthew Henry, can be filled with gratitude and you can express your thankfulness to God for every second of your life.
"In Everything, Give Thanks." Is this Possible for a Student who is Overwhelmed by an Academic Overload and the Pressure of Exams?
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a student who was grumbling about the assignments that his lecturers had given him. He was saying that they are hectic and he was very bitter. But I told him:
"Why not spin it around and look at it the other way. Why not feel thankful at the wonder of being in school? Why not feel thankful for eyes that can see assignments? There are many blind people who are yearning for the privilege of even being able to see what you are seing, but they don't have it! Why not be happy and thankful for a mind that can evaluate the assignments and recognise that they are either easy or hard? Why don't you feel thankful instead for a mind that can intelligently wrestle with these hectic and difficult assignments? There are very many mad people today who have lost this precious intelligent ability and are eating from trash cans and walking naked without any remorse! If you only happened to count your blessings honestly, you would realize that the reasons that should compell you to complain in the midst of any circumstance (whether it is a hardship or not), are baseless in comparison to the reasons that you have for being thankful to God and praising him for his goodness to you."
Unfortunately, instead of thinking though these issues I was putting before him, this student (who is a good friend of mine, by the way), chased me away saying that I was confusing him.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord. " (1 Corinthians 15:58)
The only rescue from any form of "meaninglessness" of life under the sun is to find our ultimate meaning in Christ. Irrespective of whether you are feeling weary and on the verge of fainting under the weight of your obligations, you can still be thankful because you have a God who does not grow weary of faint that you can lean on and this God is able to sustain you and to refuel your energy.
This same God and burden-bearing Saviour is the very one who lovingly calls us in Matthew 11:28 saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. "
As you can see, it is possible to give thanks in every circumstance. You can wake up to every new day feeling grateful to God for his grace, mercy and faithfulness and recognising that "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV)
We have a "God our maker who gives songs in the night" (Job 35:10). Through his sufficient grace that gives us, the weight of your burdens in life can be replaced by the wonder of living. This "God our maker who gives songs in the night" can make us rejoice even in the midst of hardships as it was in the case of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:16-25.