A Transforming Thankfulness
The great German writer Goethe once penned: “All that is transitory is but a metaphor.” In that simple phrase, he was saying a lot. That which is eternal is what is most real and that which is transitory is a metaphor which gives us eyes to see the eternal.
All created things are windows into the Divine. This idea is rich and contains echoes of the wisdom of the Hebrew poets:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. (Ps 19:1-2)
O Lord … how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps 8:1)
However, quite frequently, we live our lives as though what is seen is the ultimate. When created things are ultimate, we can end up living in a place of discontent and ungratefulness. When created things are ultimate, we believe that we need them to be satisfied. Or, when circumstances are hard, we believe we need to get rid of them in order to be satisfied.
Again, the wisdom of the Hebrew poets speaks boldly:
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Ps 84:10)
Our satisfaction and joy and purpose in life are found in God alone and the way that we interact with what we see (the transitory) affects whether or not we find our satisfaction in Him. If created things are windows into the Divine, then we can accept all things or their absence as an entry point into experiencing Him. How does this work?
In his writing to Timothy (1 Tim 4:1-5), the Apostle Paul shares that “some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” He goes on to say that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”
What is the teaching of “demons” referred to by Paul? Quite simply: that some of what God created (e.g., marriage or certain foods) are bad. Paul boldly says that all things are created to be received with a thankful heart. And, through the guidance of the word of God and our relationship with God, all created things are sacred (holy). They propel us to see God and appreciate Him. Marriage! Yes, even a hard one, can be received with thanksgiving and give us eyes to see God. His love, His longsuffering, His sacrificial heart can be experienced in marriage. Having a meal can remind us that God is a provider of all good things. Metaphorically, He gives “daily bread.” The list could go on.
How are you receiving all things with thanksgiving?
Ignatius of Loyola penned some incredibly wise words centuries ago:
“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to this end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.”
Is your desire to have the “good things” of life for which you will give thanks or to accept all things as opportunities to know and praise and serve God? The way that you view created things will determine the way you receive them.
Oswald Chambers beautifully states: “We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never believe that the so-called random events of life are anything less than God’s appointed order. Be ready to discover His divine designs anywhere and everywhere.”
Receiving all things with thanksgiving is truly transforming. Let this be your prayer over these days of Thanksgiving:
Father, give me courage to receive all things with a “yes” … seeing all things as an opportunity to know You and praise You and serve You. On my part, I desire neither health rather than sickness, neither riches rather than poverty, neither honor rather than dishonor, neither long rather than short life, but simply that all things would become holy through You.
If you don’t believe everything in that prayer, pray it until you do!