All summer I was glued to the Psalms and Isaiah. I was drawn into the raw honesty that the Psalms sing out and to the theme of freedom out of captivity threaded throughout Isaiah. This summer was one of healing, but it was also one of preparation… I just didn’t know it at the time. The Lord was telling me;
“Behold Bailey, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
I didn’t perceive it then, but I see it now. He has been making a way in the wilderness that these past few months have been. I was pretty blind to this for the first two months. I allowed the clouds of darkness to cover the always present moonlight. I was honestley lost in the wilderness— left frustrated, angry, and sorrowful.
I really struggled with the transition back into school. I was embarrassed of my weakness and hiding out in the wilderness, unsure of where He was making a way out.
After one week into this new season a little package sat on my bed. I opened it to a book— a devotion called A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. My sweet friend Madison mailed this to me after checking in a few days prior and asking how I was doing. I sat in tears of this kind gesture and began to see what this devotion was all about. It has one theme— eucharisteo. Eucharisteo is the greek work for giving thanks. It entails thanksgiving— the root word meaning joy and the derivative meaning grace and together producing gratitude. For an english major, this word was exciting because of its depth. For a person in a place of darkness, this word was restoring.
The Bible itself is full of suffering. You can’t flip through a book of the Bible without reading of a person’s sufferings and trouble… but you also can’t flip through it without seeing a pattern of praise and hope. The people of God lament and cry out in desperation. They are honest in their weakness and suffering. But, the people of God in their darkness continue to cling to His truth. They say, “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; through war wage against me, yet I will be confident.(Psalm 27:3)” They cry out, “You are my God; give ear to my voice of the pleas for mercy, O Lord! O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.(Psalm 140:6-7). And then, the praise Him… eucharisteo. They say; “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him all his angels, praise him, all his hosts! (Psalm 148:1)”
Just as Paul encouraged the Church of Philippi to rejoice always, he encourages us to do the same. I never took Paul at his word until I began to see the gifts that flow from rejoicing always. Sitting and feasting in thanksgiving and praise is in every way healing, restoring, and hope barring. Now, it is in no way easy to do… I fail to rejoice in every day… but when I do live in a place of constant thanksgiving, it is transformative.
We have seasons of darkness and seasons of being light— but we are always in a season of praise if we allow ourselves to be. I think that’s the thing I’ve been learning most this semester. Praising God is our purpose. Praising God is where hope rises. Praising God takes the focus off of ourselves and onto the One who is worthy. Praising God requires nothing of us besides our devotion. Praising God is loving Him with all our heart, all our strength, and all our mind. I think loving Him and praising Him with our mind is the toughest thing to do in a world covered with distractions, lies, and darkness.It is the toughest thing to do but one of the most powerful things we can fight to do.
Thanksgiving isn’t just one day a year and eucharisteo isn’t just a word— these words both entail a life of giving thanks to the Father. Our days are overflowing with gifts, we just have to tune our eyes to see all the gifts in front of us. I think about my friend Mr. Ray and how he lived and lived in eucharisteo. Mr. Ray collected old rugged nails he’d find on the ground because he saw a gift and a story in each one of them. Mr. Ray picked up Magnolia seeds that he found because he was amazed by their design and by what the produced. Mr. Ray watched as many sunsets as possible and sat in stillness and in awe every time he saw one. He saw the gifts and he lived a life of giving thanks for those gifts.
When we seek His hand in our lives it becomes impossible to miss it at work. I am so thankful for the ways the Lord has continuously showed me His faithfulness even in my faithlessness and doubt. This year has been one of a lot of death and heart break— but it has been a year filled with hope and gifts and His goodness enthralled throughout it all. My prayer over this week is that as we are reminded of the essence of giving thanks that we will be moved to continuously feast in Thanksgiving daily. My hope is that we’d speak more about what we are thankful for and less about what we are frustrated about.
So come and lets feast in thanks together.
Let us push on to live a life in reverence to Him, in encouragement to one another, and in joy of His grace.