Gratitude requires all three.
Thanksgiving and Advent are upon us. Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to look at the past and the present with gratitude for the good in our lives. Advent points us forward to the new year living under the new covenant with God and to the coming of the Lord in glory.
We should be a grateful people. Even when circumstances are hard, God sees. Hagar was evicted with her son, sent away to die. The Lord saw her and provided salvation. Esther was kidnapped from her home and sent to live in a foreign palace with a tempestuous king. The Lord saw her and showed her that he would use her trauma to save the Hebrew people. The Samaritan woman was an outcast, but Jesus saw her. It was to her, the most lowly of women in her humiliation, that Jesus revealed himself as Messiah. Hebrews 11 traces the lives of many people who endured the most difficult circumstances, but were always seen by God, who was with them in their faith–even though they may had never seen the fulfilment of God’s promise.
We may not see, but God does. He is faithful; we can believe with confidence that He sees us.
How then, should we live? How do we show gratitude while we await the promised coming of the Lord in glory? He has told us what is good and what he requires of us: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
Gratitude works for justice, especially for the poor, the lonely, and the outcast. Hagar, Esther, and the Samaritan woman could not achieve any sort of justice for themselves, yet God provided perfect justice for them. As believers, we have far more agency than women of history. We can use our resources for those who do not have access. We can provide for physical needs. We can intercede for spiritual needs. And we can come alongside with kindness for emotional needs. Acting for justice in the name of the Father is a demonstration of gratitude.
Connected to justice is a heart of mercy that faithfully obeys in loving God and loving people. The most unloveable person we know is loved by God. That is enough reason to push beyond our barriers and demonstrate mercy to the people around us. We do not know the stories that contributed to their “unloveableness.” Mercy, not judgement, is what God requires. Not judging out of mercy reminds us that God’s mercy intervened on our behalf in the cross. Gratitude drives mercy.
Neither true justice nor authentic mercy come from a place of pride. When we recognize the magnitude of God’s grace toward us, we are humbled. In our humility, we keep our eyes on Jesus, not on our own worth. Walking humbly means submitting to the Lord in obedience, just as Hagar, Esther, and the Samaritan woman did. In spite of catastrophic circumstances, the people of Hebrews 11 stayed humbly faithful. We must do no less as we express our gratitude to the Father today and until Jesus returns.