The Voice whispered inwardly, “Your heart is ungrateful.”
Conviction made my heart constrict. It was true. I was (and still am) ungrateful. This summer has been hard, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Tiredness has dogged me as I try to adult, striving for something that I don’t know how to put into words.
When I feel this conviction, I try to find an example of someone in the Bible who has gone through something similar and how God has dealt with it. That’s where my Women In The Bible series comes from. My heart has shown all kinds of brokenness: unfaithfulness (the Woman Caught In Adultery), doubting and distracted (Martha), thirsting for love (the Woman at the Well) to name a few. So in the same way, I looked in the Bible to see who struggled with this kind of brokenness too.
Miriam was a prophetess in the Old Testament. She helped save her brother, Moses, from Pharaoh’s decree that all new born baby boys should be put to death. She grew up under the domination of the Egyptians; her friends, family, and people slaves for all their lives. Moses’s arrival also brings the salvation of God, their cries for freedom heard.
Overflow of the Heart
Have you ever reached the end of your rope and spoke something mean that immediately made you go, “Ohhhh”. Jesus said it perfectly in Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Miriam, in Numbers 12, makes the foolish mistake of speaking badly of Moses’s Cushite wife. Not only that but self-righteously says that Moses isn’t the only one God speaks to. He speaks to her and her brother, Aaron as well. God’s anger was kindled after she spoke this and corrects her both verbally and physically.
God answered the Israelites plea for freedom and showed His great power and grace, but that didn’t stop them from complaining. Their bellies were rumbling for meat and they were tired of eating manna (you know, that sweet wafer-like substance that fell from Heaven evening morning!). They murmured and complained about God’s provision on so many occasions and there was a prophetess of God doing it out in the open.
Ungratefulness will always flood our hearts when we think we deserve something more.
How many times have the Israelites, and we for that matter, looked at our present circumstances and just seen the lack instead of the provision? Everything God did was not only in loving response to the covenant He had made but also to show His supreme glory in and through His people. Miriam not only spoke against her brother but against God’s servant. She looked down on Moses’s wife and elevated herself. Friends, I don’t know about you but I call that pride.
Pride will always tell us we deserve more because of who we are rather than who we belong to. It will see all the things that are wrong and not count the blessings God gives to us every day. Yes, the desert must have been extremely hot but their clothing and their shoes never wore down. Thirst and hunger were a reality in all that walking but God always provided for them in the most miraculous ways.
When you are focusing on what you lack, how can you give thanks to God for the way He has provided? You can’t.
God not only rebuked Miriam in His anger but He gave her leprosy for 10 days. She had to live outside the camp because she was unclean. It may seem like a harsh punishment but I believe God showed on the outside the disease of sin on the inside. I can only wonder what her days must have been like in isolation. I’m sure she must have had a lot of time to think and meditate on the condition of her heart. Humbleness must have cloaked her once her skin was renewed and she was welcomed back into the camp.
Jesus Gave Thanks
Night fell Jesus and the twelve disciples broke bread in the upper room. It was the last Passover they would celebrate together. It was the last night of their “normal” lives. The time had come and the words spoken throughout the history of God’s people would finally be fulfilled.
And as they were eating, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks for it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
If you attend church regularly, it can be hard to keep the reverence for something you do often like taking holy communion. You hear the pastor say these words weekly or monthly and unless you’re really savoring and meditating on the words…they just become words.
Yet thinking about His words as I write this post, I’m amazed that Jesus was giving thanks for what was to come: His crucifixion. He thanked His Father for the brokenness of His body that would be nailed to the Cross. Growing up in Roman-occupied land, He knew what torture would lie ahead for Him. The hours of agony as His body tired upon those rugged pieces of wood with no comfort or relief.
He also thanked God for the blood His body would shed; the strips that would make Him unrecognizable to His followers and family. That bread and that cup were symbols for the promise of a new covenant in which we would become grafted into the lineage and story of God.
Even as Jesus is going to face His most brutal challenge, He begins this meal as He always did throughout His life, with God first.
The Discipline of Thankfulness
Thankfulness does not come naturally for any of us. Pride will make us believe we are already worthy of what we are given. Romans 1:20-21 shows the progression of what an ungrateful heart can do to a person,
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Using this verse, how can we practice the disciple of thankfulness in this post-Christian world?
- Give thanks for what is seen. God gave us the stunning splendor of nature to reveal His power and majesty. Summer draws many of us outside to swim in the depths of the ocean or bike ride on trails in verdant forests. Fall brings the changing of the colors and crisp nights to gaze upon twinkling stars. There’s the laugh of a newborn baby and the warm hug of a loved one. These are all things we can give God thanks for.
- Give thanks for what is unseen. I love what Stephen Furtick says about God’s presence, “…what if God’s presence is not for fixing your problems but fixing your perspective.” Miriam, the Israelites, and many of us today see the problems. Hunger, thirst, debt, (for some of us singleness), and sickness can be very real problems. God is able to make a way for us and provide but it’s also realizing He is GOD. There is no one who cares more or who is on your side more than He is. There is no one who will pursue you more or seek a relationship with you more than He will.
- Give Him the glory. Delight in who He is more than what He can do for you. He doesn’t move on our timetable but He will provide the answer at just the right time. “We were created to make God look magnificent as the sum of all truth, and to make Him look magnificent as the most valuable treasure in the universe.” (The Gospel Shaped Heart, Desiring God website).
- Remember Him in your thoughts. All you have to do is to remember what God has done in your past, namely the salvation He gifted you with at the cost of His own Son. Even if you were raised in the church, we have all fallen short. No one is better than the other as Miriam clearly shows us. Remember that He is your Advocate, your Comforter, your Strength, and your Song.
- Seek wisdom to illuminate your hearts. Those who say there is no God is foolish and those who live as though there’s no God even more so. The (reverent) fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge or wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). It always goes back to putting God first!
When our hearts are filled with thanksgiving, there is a joy that spills over to everyone around us.
Enter into His courts with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good… (Psalm 100:4-5)
I’d love to know – how do you practice thankfulness in your walk with God? (Comment below. I’d love to hear from you!)