In Case of Whirlwind…

I suspect that many of us cling to the somewhat unfounded belief that our lives will slow down or smooth out once we get past certain benchmarks. I say “unfounded” because while out situations are routinely changing, we seem to find ourselves constantly looking to the next, seemingly more welcomed phase of life.  This is evidenced in comments like these:

 “if I can just get past this semester…”
“as soon as I get a better job…”
“once the kids are in (or out?) of school…”
“as soon as the holidays are over…”
“when I get past this big project at work…”
“when I’m finally able to retire…”

I think it’s much more true to reality to say that, when we ease out of or grow comfortable with one thing, we’ll often add something else (often very good things) that will bring a similar or even greater level of activity, responsibility, anxiety, etc. And that means many of us will live the majority of our lives in the midst of the proverbial whirlwind.

But regardless of how common this is, it would be a mistake to think that it’s easy. The whirlwind can exact a heavy toll in all sorts of ways, but I’ll touch briefly on just one in particular: it can be a breeding ground for a frustrated, resentful, and ungrateful heart. That’s because, particularly in the whirlwind, the circumstances of our lives routinely conspire against our ease and peace. It’s not that we usually encounter a series of full-blown crises; it’s more on the order of death by a thousand cuts. There always seems to be something to give attention to, take care of, worry about, or endure. And so we begin to feel that our lives aren’t working out the way we’d hoped. We think things like, “Now this too? Really? Why do I have to put up with all of these things?” Instead of typical, we see our situations as uniquely challenging. And we take special note when someone we know doesn’t appear to be saddled with apparently heavy burdens we must bear.

The problem that we run into in the course of this process is either (1) to doubt God’s love and goodness toward us or (2) to grow jealous or resentful of those whom we judge to have a better life that our own. And when we’re tempted along these lines we very much need the antidote of thankfulness.

Of all the possible reasons why offering thanks to God is such a common practice in the Bible—one passage even urges that we give thanks “continually” (1 Thess. 5:18)—one seems to stand out in this context. Giving thanksgiving to God necessitates that we take a step back and think about what we have to be thankful for.

For most that will read a post like this, the list one could rightly compile in answer to that question is a long one. Most of us can understand this with a few moments of thought—on top of modern conveniences and luxuries we enjoy, most of have friends and family we care deeply for, let alone a roof over our head and food to eat. And all this is only a kind of cherry on top compared to the stunning blessings God has given us through his Son.  

My point isn’t to catalog all of these things here, it’s simply to say that, for most of us, taking time to consider the list in your own life offers much needed perspective. It allows us to acknowledge the many ways God has genuinely blessed us—quite apart from what we’ve actually deserved.  And it pulls us away from of any potential pity party we might be tempted to hold because of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. 

This is doubly true when we realize that some of our frustrations exist only because God has blessed us. It might be a hassle to herd your kids to this or that activity or event and it’s certainly difficult to shoulder the responsibility of parenting them in the first place. But think of the great wonder your kids are in the first place! And yes, it can be hard to figure out how to budget your both your income and your discretionary time. No doubt millions would love to have such problem. We could go on.

All this means that thanksgiving could be conceived as less a holiday and more of an integral part of life—particularly when you’re caught up in the whirlwind. 

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