Thinking further about Jeremiah and his complaint, we can see that the main focus of the enemy’s attack on Jeremiah was to cast doubt on the character and the goodness of God. This was an attack on Jeremiah faith, fundamental to his good relationship with God, and his ministry as God’s prophet to the nation of Israel. The devil has used that same trick over and over again, to great effect. It started with Eve, and continues today with any of us who will listen to his insinuations and slurs on God, on His goodness and His love for us.
With Eve the serpent first of all says. ‘Did God really say “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ How often he does that. He just throws a doubt into our minds about what God has said. Then having done that he goes on to blatently contradict God, “You will not surely die.” (This was a clever half truth because they didn’t die straight away, but death came into the world and they died later.) And finally, the trump card, an insinuation that God is mean and just keeping them down. He says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” By saying that he also gave a significant boost to the appetising nature of the fruit, by attributing to it the ability to give wisdom to the one who consumed it. Wow! That is clever. Genesis 3:1-6.
I think that often when we find ourselves harbouring a ‘complaint’ against God, and what He is (or isn’t) doing for us, or if we are just simply confused about how life is going, the enemy is right there ready with his lies, half truths, and insinuations and, if we are not careful, our befuddled minds will take his thoughts on board, especially if they resonate with what we are already feeling or thinking.
Thanksgiving and gratitude can be a wonderful help in guarding our hearts and minds at these times. It can keep us focussed on the truth of ‘who God is’ and ‘what He is like’. Jeremiah found peace and hope again when he ‘called to mind God’s great and steadfast love and his mercy, and remembered that ‘it is because of the Lord’s great love that we are not consumed.’ Lamentations 2:21-24. If we can fill our hearts with thanksgiving for all that the Lord has already done for us, then our hearts are not going to be fertile ground for the seeds of discontent which lead to doubt and then fear.
So when we are in those situations where God seems to be silent, or when things seem to be going badly for us and He doesn’t immediately come to our rescue. When it feels like we have been praying for something for a long time and nothing has changed. When even promises that we have read in His word seem remote and unlikely to be fulfilled, these are the times when we are vulnerable and our thanksgiving really, really matters. These are the times when we need to offer up our sacrifice of praise, and what better way to start than by giving thanks at all times and in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
When we are in trouble and God seems far away, it’s like being at a cross roads. To the left I can go down the road labelled, ‘God isn’t as good and kind as He says He is’. To the right I can go down the road labelled ‘God is not bothered or caring for me, so there is something wrong with me.’ Both of those roads (you can replace my words with your own version of both), lead us away from God and down a cul-de-sac spiritually. The road ahead is labelled, ‘I may not understand, but God is good, He loves me, and I am going to press on into Him for more grace to walk with Him through this challenging time’.
That road straight ahead involves embracing ‘mystery’. The mystery of God’s timings on things, of His higher purposes that I often don’t ‘get’ in the moment. It involves the mystery that we are caught in a battle between two world systems, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, a battle of which we only catch a glimpse in scripture, for example in Daniel 10:12-14. It involves the mystery that my faith actually grows, and I mature spiritually in times of trouble. And it involves the mystery that God is working in us for good in the light of eternity, and not just for our comfort in this life.
However we understand it, giving thanks at these times, can help to block out the confusion from the enemy, and can help us to set our face to walk down that central road. There will be light on our path there. His word being a ‘lamp to our feet’. Psalm 119:105. It’s also the road of which Isaiah spoke, ‘Come house of Jacob. Let us walk in the light of the Lord’. Isaiah 2:5.
If we can refuse to go right – doubting God’s goodness and love, or left – deciding it must be my fault, and instead go straight ahead, we will be taking the road that the Lord would lead us down and when/if we turn to the left or the right we will hear Him saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21.