Four Ways to be Thankful During Uncertain Times

March 20, 2020

Strength in the Desert, Part 1

Four Ways to be Thankful During Uncertain Times

Do you feel like the desert owl of Psalm 102, abandoned and alone, wondering where God is and what he is doing? This life can seem uncertain and unsettling sometimes, but instead of worrying and complaining, we can learn a lesson from a people that literally found themselves stranded in a wilderness.

Through Israel’s 40 year punishment in the desert, we can find 4 ways that we should be thankful to the Lord regardless of our circumstances.

1. Be Thankful for Daily Mercies

While Israel was walking around the desert for 4 decades, their clothes never wore out. They were protected from the harsh environment, and as Deut. 8:4 says, “your foot did not swell these forty years.” Furthermore, they never lacked food, as they had a daily supply of manna. There is no human explanation for the survival of this many people in an environment that should have killed them all. Matt. 6:25-26 tells us not to be anxious about anything because God is the one who provides all that we need. Did you have enough to eat today? Did you see some sunshine? Did you breathe God’s air? Did you have even one reason to smile? Did you have a moment or two of enjoyment? Thank God for the mercies he has given you today.

2. Be Thankful for Spiritual Mercies

Moses recognized the discipline of God on the people in Deut. 8:5. This discipline taught Israel to be humble and to admit their dependence on God. Humility is something that the Lord values and cherishes , and is the essence of what God desires to build into us to make us more like Christ. Phil. 2:5-11 shows Christ himself demonstrating humility by condescending to come to this filthy earth from the perfection of heaven. You cannot put a price tag on the humility and dependence that is wrought and forged in you as a result of waiting on the Lord.

3. Be Thankful for Covenant Mercies

God made a covenant with Abraham and with Israel that he would multiple Abraham’s descendants and make Israel a great nation. Even through Israel’s disobedience, God was still faithful to follow through with his promises. As those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior, we have a covenant with God as well. This covenant also includes promises that God is sure to keep. John 6:39-40 explains that Christ will not lose anyone that the Father has given to him, and that all those believe on the Son will have eternal life. If that isn’t enough, Rev. 21:4 tells us that in our resurrected state on the new earth, we will be free of mourning, crying, and pain.

4. Be Thankful for Redemptive Plan Mercies

Even in the wilderness, God was providing Israel with pictures of their coming Messiah. 1 Cor. 10:4 explains that Israel was drinking of the spiritual rock, which was Christ. John 3:14 explains the serpent that Moses lifted up was a picture of Christ being lifted up, speaking of his death on the cross for the sins of all who would look to him for mercy. When God does anything, it is always part of the bigger picture of his redemptive plan.

Remember that desert owl from Psalm 102? When the desert sun begins to set and darkness closes over the waste places, it sings a note that can be heard by any near eastern traveler. It sings this note as it sways back and forth in contentment. Even in the desert and in darkness, you can be the desert owl that sings and sways in contentment, because you have a God who is already there in victory!

Steve Swartz, D.Min

Dr. Swartz serves as Senior Pastor of Grace Bible Church in Bakersfield, California and is a guest instructor at John MacArthur’s Grace Advance Academy, a church-planting training program. Dr. Swartz is the author of numerous books, including Strength in the River, Joyful Generosity, Shattered Shepherds, and The Essential Church.

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