By Bethany Riehl
“I will offer You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.” – Psalm 116:17
First things first, an update: last issue I told you about signing up to run with FiftyTwo.Four, a non-profit organization that raises funds for orphans with HIV/AIDS in India by committing to run four half marathons in four weeks.
By the time you read this, I will be all finished with the races, but at the time of my writing this I have two more half marathons to go. I can tell you that God has been faithful to get me to the finish line and has graciously softened the hearts of generous people who have donated to the kids on my behalf. It’s been an incredible thing to be a part of and I am thankful to each one of you who prayed for me.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – as wonderful as it has been and as thankful as I am for the summer of training, it has been a difficult and painful endeavor. I tell my family that after the races I feel like I’m made of tin and got rained on. My joints and ligaments turn squeaky and stiff, and I limp around for the full day afterwards. It’s been good to remember that hard things are not bad things and sometimes good things require sacrifice.
Maybe that’s why the above verse has been on my heart lately. After a season of sacrifice – in time, commitment, brain power, and physical effort – it hit me differently that the psalmist calls thanksgiving a sacrifice. Maybe because thankfulness and contentment aren’t exactly our default settings.
With the upcoming holiday season, I thought it would be beneficial to press into that a bit. It’s so easy to be discontented and ruin the whole thing, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year, from the weather to the music to the food (soups and breads and desserts – oh my!), to the movies and old TV specials. But all of those things can also lead to coveting, which leads to idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
Although it should be a time to first thank God for the great things He has done with the celebration of Thanksgiving, and then reflect with wonder on how He accomplished salvation for us as we celebrate Christmas (and of course, that can easily be done without the food or weather or music or TV specials), it is very easy to choose the shiny things all around us instead of Christ, who is the substance (Colossians 2:17). If we take our eyes off of Jesus and let discontentment take root, it seeps into every nook and cranny of our heart and inevitably leaks out. Suddenly we’re grumbling about traffic, losing patience with others, coveting what we don’t have, and can become a curmudgeon that spoils the joy for everyone.
But that’s not the example our Savior has given to us. The more miles I added in my training, the more my mind came up with little tricks to keep me focused and on track. One of them was knowing that my average time is three and a half hours from start to finish (I walk half of it). About halfway through my first race I found myself wondering, “How can I think three and a half hours of discomfort is anything compared to the lifetime of suffering my Savior took on for me?”
Because I imagine the weight of flesh was more than we can fathom even before He suffered under the wrath of God. As I pressed into that thought, pausing my music to think it over, my feet hitting the pavement one slow stride at a time, I thought of everything He must have suffered for my sake. If Jesus came to live the life of holiness that I cannot live, He never grumbled, never lied (even to spare someone’s feelings); never took what wasn’t His, never gossiped, cursed, slandered; never had an immoral thought or action. He lived in His body of flesh in our grime and our dirt among unclean people with unclean lips and kept His flesh pure.
And for me.
And because He did that, and because He calls us to be holy as He is holy, I owe Him every sacrifice of thanksgiving – whatever that may look like – I can muster.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:11
This season, I want to press into that with everything I’ve got. Don’t you?
God rest ye merry, dear friends. He has come.
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” – 1 John 4:14-16
Bethany Riehl lives in the Treasure Valley with her husband, three kids, and one super chill dog. She writes articles and fictional novels when she can, and her one desire is to point others to the love and sufficiency of Jesus Christ.