God has guided Cross of Glory through many challenges and struggles. God has never, ever given up on us, not even for a moment.
I think of God’s people, freed from slavery in Egypt to follow where God led them. As they trekked across seemingly endless desert, they even began to look back on slavery with fondness: they remembered “the good old days” in Egypt as easier than having to walk, following God, fully relying on God for all their food and all their water, as well as all their protection from other nations. They forgot that they had always been depending on God for their daily provision, even while they were kept from worship and forced to work oppressive jobs for foreign rulers. Instead of looking forward and focusing on God’s promises for them, they looked back through falsely idealized memories.
But as they travelled in the desert for 40 years, God provided for them. You know the lessons about God providing manna and quail and water from a rock. God brought them safely through other lands, as they defeated armies so that they could pass through. In 40 years of travel their clothes and sandals did not wear out! (Deuteronomy 29:5) God provided well for them, but they did not recognize all that God was doing as He moved them toward their Promised Land.
As they prepare to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land at last, Moses reminds them of all that God has been doing and calls them to recommit to their covenant with God, saying (in part)
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, … Nor is it beyond the sea,… No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. Love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
This day … I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut 30:11-20, abridged).
Later Joshua again calls for renewed awareness of God’s abundant blessings and a renewal of commitment, saying (in Joshua 24:15), But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
And we also have that choice. We can overlook the provisions that God gives, forgetting that even as God provides for the birds, they still have to build their own nests and find their own food: God makes it possible. Or we can remember that every breath is a gift from God; all that we are and all that we have ultimately comes from and belongs to God.
We can choose to trust the cultural gods of success or money, and make those things priorities in our lives. And if serving the Lord seems too difficult or restrictive or time consuming, then you’re acknowledging the way of the world.
Or you can gather on this (non-Christian) holiday and recognize how many, many blessings we have in our nation, in our neighborhood, in our own lives, and then give thanks to God as we say, “As for me, I will serve the Lord!”
May God continue to bless you on Thanksgiving and always,