For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. Psalms 137:3-6
Thanksgiving is me to pause and reflect on all that we have and all that God has done. This year many people will gather around tables of food surrounded by friends and family. They’ll share stories, laugh and cry, all with an atmosphere of festive thanks. In the end, they will go to their respective homes, in some cases overstuffed and carrying left overs, with anticipation on of the things they’ll have to look forward to next year.
This picturesque ideal of Thanksgiving is one shared by many the world over. But one thing that comes to my mind often as we gather around and share what we are thankful for is the repetitive question “what am I thankful for?” I could list health, or home, or family, or salvation, but am I really thankful to have those things or is it something that is said simply given the occasion? Do we say that we are thankful for those things because we have them? What if we didn’t have a family to surround ourselves with, or a place to go home to, or any of the basic necessities of life? We would like to think we would still be thankful in all of that but we are speaking of a condition that doesn’t exist for us. There are many, no doubt, who face this me of year without hope, without many of things we consider ourselves thankful for. Some spend this time of year depressed reflecting on the circumstances life has placed them in. Some are consumed with disease and lie one their bed with moments le to live. Many have experienced financial hardship such as the loss of a job, foreclosure on a home, repossession of a car, or seemingly insurmountable debt. And still many have experienced many other difficult situations.
Psalms 137 speaks of a me when the Israelites are being held captive in Babylon. This is a dark me for them, by the standards of that day. The temple has been destroyed and God’s holy things are being desecrated as the Babylonians make use of them for their god’s. And with all that they were experiencing they are asked by their captors to ...sing a song of Zion... and they reply simply thinking how can we? I wonder if the people of this world who have, are, and will suffer ask this ques on of themselves? How can I be thankful when I have nothing to be thankful for?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when I’ve lost all hope?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when I’m suffering with disease?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when I have no place to sleep?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when my family isn’t saved and they’re dying in this world?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when I am constantly depressed?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when it seems like God is nowhere to be found?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when life is not worth living?
How can I sing the Lord’s song, when I am surrounded by the enemy?
How can I sing the Lord’s song? How can I sing the Lord’s song?
How can I sing the Lord’s song?
In Lamentations three Jeremiah describes his a ic on. He feels as if God himself has neglected him. The enemy has made him is primary target. He feels as though there is no end to his suffering. I wonder if he asks the same ques on “how can I sing the Lord’s song?”
But then a change a realization that he can sing the Lord’s song, not because he is in a better set of circumstances but because he remembered. “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” Jeremiah remembered that is not about the circumstances we find ourselves in that cause us to be thankful but rather the realization that it is God who is above our circumstances and see’s us through all of life’s trials. Psalms 20:7 says some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. Proverbs 18:10 says the name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
When we remember who God is, and what power he holds, and the care that he has for us, then we understand we can “...sing the Lord’s song.” We remember where God has brought us from, we remember his plan for our life, we remember the hope we have of things to come. How can [we] sing the Lord’s song? Because our hope is not in this world. Revelation 21 says And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death; neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. How can [we] sing the Lord’s song? By remembering our God and the promises he has given us.
As you spend this holiday according to your tradition I encourage you to think not about what you have to be thankful for but rather why you can be thankful. We might not have all the money to meet our needs, or be in the greatest state of health, or have experienced nothing but blessing this year. But we have the name of our God ...which always causeth us to triumph in Christ... and sing the Lord’s song.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4
-Bro. Stephen Walker