Have you ever been down to your last few dollars in your bank account or wallet? Since you’re still alive enough to read or hear this, I suspect you have a story you could tell of God’s provision in those desperate moments.
Angus Nelson, on day 62, told the story of when he and his wife went on a luxury cruise with clients while only having a few hundred dollars left in the bank. They knew they needed to sell their house and downsize. When they got home their house sold in record time and as soon as they got into a smaller apartment they watched God rebuild their family finances. It’s a God-story they will never forget.
Confidence in God’s Provision
In the Psalms, we see many songs of thanksgiving. Often they were offering thanks for something God had already accomplished: rescued from enemies, healed from diseases, or the forgiveness of sins.
The Hebrew word most often used is hodah which means to confess or acknowledge. They confessed the good things God has done. They also used a related word todah which means songs of thanksgiving or songs of sacrifice.
The neuroscience of singing
Singing releases endorphins like serotonin and oxytocin making us happier, more connected, and less anxious. Singing in a community helps us feel more strongly bonded and protected.
So singing songs of thanksgiving is like a triple whammy: we feel better personally, we feel connected, and our mindset shifts as we see our lives more gratefully.
This must be part of why spirituals and songs of apartheid became such a unifying and powerful force. If you’ve ever been with a large crowd singing a song like “Freedom is Coming” you can appreciate the unifying nature of a common song that professes hope.
Joy comes in the morning
Mark Futato, in his book Joy Comes in the Morning, says this about songs of thanksgiving,
“Though you may at times feel hopeless in the darkness of life’s adversity, the truth is you always have reason for hope. Thanksgiving and praise always get the last word! Though weeping may go on throughout the night, remember: joy comes in the morning!”Mark Futato
Hope arises because of past experience
We tell our stories of God’s past faithful provision to remind others and ourselvesthat God is faithful. When we read the stories in scripture it gives us hope that no matter how dark the valley, God will come through.
Sometimes we have to wait a really long time. Sometimes the waiting doesn’t end until heaven.
I find I get discouraged by this prospect when I lose sight of just how good heaven will be. When my focus is just on meeting a financial goal, a weight loss goal, or solving a particular problem, I forget the larger story.
The great reversal
In most of the psalms of thanksgiving, the story starts in a place of desperate need. The psalmists tell us just how bad it’s become and then, either slowly or quickly, God steps in. Sometimes all that’s needed is a perspective change, like in Psalm 73. Other times God rescues the writer (see Psalm 40). And many times it’s a realization of God’s forgiveness.
Psalm 32 is a great example. David starts out proclaiming how amazing it is when God forgives us. Then he admits the absolute mess he got himself into when he didn’t confess his sin. He experienced physical, emotional, and spiritual oppression. His bones wasted away, he groaned all day, and God’s hand was heavy upon him.
And then he confessed his sin and he experienced joy. The Hebrew word, ashre, translated “blessed” actually means “What joy!”
God’s provision and our ungrateful response
When it comes to seeing God’s provision in our lives, there’s a similar process needed. In my experience, I watch myself become myopically focused on what I don’t have. That leads to sinful ingratitude and forgetfulness.
This selfishness results in an unwillingness to serve or at least a lack of awareness. My thoughts turn negative and I can literally start to become sick.
Becoming thankful for God’s provision is the answer
Just like the psalmist needed to confess his sin or admit his wrong view, I find I need to start thanking God in faith. Remembering God’s past faithfulness in scripture and to me, I start to thank God for his future provision. Doing this with other believers is super powerful.
It usually starts by becoming more thankful for what I already have. Envy, discontentment, and greed can all feed my sense of lack. Praying and singing songs of thankfulness bring about a reorienting of my mind and my heart.
Notice how the psalmist often says, “I will sing.” For example, in Psalm 57, David describes being attacked by lions and his enemies. Even while his life is in danger, he proclaims,
“My heart, O God, is steadfast,Psalm 57:7 NIV
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.”
Jesus is always the answer
Our ability to hope is rooted in our faith in God’s love. God expressed his love in one ultimate act: by sending Jesus to become our atoning sacrifice, Lord, and Savior. We can look forward to the day when our mourning will turn into dancing because Jesus paid our adoption price. Now we have a Father who owns everything and he will never let us go hungry (Prov. 10:13).
When I graduated from college I had accumulated some consumer debt on a trip to Europe. I knew my father wanted me to get a job ASAP, but, I sensed God wanted me to take one more course before looking for a job. I dreaded telling my father my desire. But God provided in two amazing ways before I ever spoke to him. My tax refund check arrived covering the exact amount for the flight. My church, without me knowing, authorized a gift to match the cost of the course. When my father saw my desire and the clear provision of God, he agreed to cover the remaining third of the expenses. The course, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, changed my life, but the story of God’s provision continues to encourage me today.
Whether you’re currently doubting God’s provision or in a place where his abundant provision is obvious, I encourage you to make a list of times when God came through at just the right time. Take a few minutes to write these down and put them somewhere you can quickly find them. And then tell someone one of those stories today.
Father, I thank you for all the ways you’ve graciously and abundantly provided for me. I remember the times when you did it in a dramatic fashion when I had no idea how it would work out. Because I know you’ve been faithful, I pray you would continue to provide for my current and future needs. And keep me thankful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.