Give Thanks in Joy
Open Your Bible
Psalm 95:1-7, Luke 15:1-10, Luke 17:11-19, Colossians 1:9-14
Scripture Reading: Psalm 95:1-7, Luke 15:1-10, Luke 17:11-19, Colossians 1:9-14
While we wait in the zoo parking lot, my son sits contentedly in his carseat, looking out the window. I watch countless minivans pull in. Women unload their children and strollers and other well-used zoo gear. Eventually, my friend pulls up in her own minivan, and we join the procession, pushing strollers toward the entrance. As we walk, I can see my son’s bare feet sticking out just beyond the shade of the stroller canopy. They are happy feet—slightly tanned, with little flecks of dirt caught under his toenails.
For years, this scene would have sent me home sobbing, because there was a time when barrenness felt all-encompassing. But as I look around, it hits me: he’s home. The adoption is nearly final now. I really am a mother. The wait is finally over. It’s a moment that makes me want to stop and dance. I want to stop everyone and tell them all the ways God has been faithful to me, to my husband, to our new son.
Seasons of joy can feel rare in this life, but when they come, God invites us to throw a party, to celebrate His goodness. Jesus’s parables are full of parties! Have you ever noticed this? Over and over again, fattened calves are slaughtered, invitations are sent out, banquet tables are set. Jesus calls us into a joyful, hopeful, peace-that-passes-understanding kind of living that turns the music way up. He invites me to celebrate, because praise brings me into His presence. And He wants to be with me.
Life is full of valleys. But it is essential to remember that valleys are made of two mountains. We may reap in tears, but joy will come. God doesn’t tell us when, but He does promise that He will restore all the years the locusts ate (Joel 2:25). And when that happens, let us not hide our joy away for fear of being boastful. The same God who mourns with us in the valley will be ready to dance with us on the mountaintop.
Perhaps you don’t feel like you have the resources to praise God right now. That’s okay. God’s Word says we ought to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Such a command might seem like a burden during a season when prayers seem to go unanswered, but it is really an invitation to freedom. Even when walking through a deep valley, we can be confident a mountain is coming. We can praise God despite our current circumstances because He is good and He does not forsake us.
This kind of praise is counter-cultural to the world we live in. It’s not intuitive. Praising like this requires practice. Partying and celebrating like this requires practice. It’s a practice of remembering that God is always with us. “Let us enter his presence with thanksgiving; let us shout triumphantly to him in song” (Psalm 95:2).
That day in the zoo parking lot woke me up. For years, I’d missed out on God’s parties. Thanksgiving is available to me at all times—whether things are good or bad, whether my heart is aching or singing. And as I walked through the zoo, listening to the animals lift their voices to their Creator, I tried to do the same.