I hopped in the car after work, my mind still spinning with all the things yet to be done. The first song popped up. I like that song, but not right now. Skip. I got more and more lost in my thoughts, until this song finally caught my ear.
I love poetry because it forces me to look at the beauty of words and the way we use them. I was looking for poems about Easter, and John Donne is typically my go-to poet, but this time, I began with George Herbert. His poem “Easter Wings,” particularly its last line, opened my eyes and centered my heart. “For, if I imp my wing on thine, / Affliction shall advance the flight in me.” Amen. Isaiah 40:29-31 reveals the same truth: reliance on God through suffering leads to a unique renewal of our strength.
Easter is all about this juxtaposition: suffering and strength. Jesus became weak by taking on flesh, yet he was strong to complete the mission he was given to suffer and die in the place of sinners and then to conquer death through his resurrection. Jesus’ strength in suffering is now given to us through faith in him; we experience the glorious exchange of his strength for our weakness. So now we do not face suffering without hope. We put one foot in front of the other–sometimes slowly–knowing that Jesus walked this road before us, and his Spirit lives within us, empowering us to press on until we arrive in our forever home with God.
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
And still with sicknesses and shame.
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
How often, when you’re singing a hymn, does the weight and beauty of a song land on you? How often do you realize what you’re singing is a testimony of the Lord’s work in your life and in the lives of those around you?
I remember one Sunday when we sang this line at church: “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” How often do we notice God’s mercy in our lives? When we sing, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,” do we acknowledge and thank God for that truth?
Thanksgiving is a day set aside for us to think and talk about what we’re thankful for. We tend to list things like health, family, friends, needs that have been met, jobs, and so on. But do we recognize God’s providing hand in those things? And even more, do we thank him, not only for the gifts he gives us, but for simply who he is?
If we depend on God’s faithfulness to us (and we do), let's thank him for it. If we depend on his provision or salvation, thank him! If we need the grace he gives, thank him for being the God who freely gives grace to his children. If we need something to hold on to in the midst of a rapidly changing, tumultuous world, thank him for being the rock on which we stand.
As I sang this song that Sunday morning, I recalled a thought I’d had the day before: there are a million ways and a million times my life could have gone differently, and I’m thankful for the life I have right now. Even as I write this, I’m shocked that it’s true: God has so richly blessed me that I wouldn’t change a thing. God’s mercy has placed me where I am, and I see that mercy freshly today.
As we near Thanksgiving, we often talk and think about what we’re thankful for. We are thankful for things like health, family, friends, needs that have been met, and so on. I find that I often take God’s faithfulness for granted. But what if, instead of thanking God for what he has done, we first thank him for who he is?
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
(Lyrics by Thomas Chisholm, music by William Runyan)
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not,
As Thou has been, Thou forever will be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided –
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!