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WORLDVIEW: Thanksgiving in a sea of troubles

EDITOR’S NOTE: An audio version of this column is available here. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, here.

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–What would William Shakespeare say about America’s deepening economic crisis?

“Now is the winter of our discontent,” perhaps.

Maybe he’d challenge us to stoically “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Or to act boldly, to “take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.”

How quickly overconfidence turns to anxiety, fear and anger when the human institutions we rely on inevitably falter or fail. “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Shakespeare’s Puck proclaims in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“WWSS” (What would Shakespeare say?) is a valuable exercise. His plays are a comprehensive guided tour of human behavior, which he saw as comic or tragic — or both at the same time.

The best guide to human fallibility, however, is the Bible, which also provides an antidote: God’s faithfulness.

Thanksgiving is an ideal time to refocus on the only reliable foundation we have. That’s what the Pilgrims at Plymouth did, and they went through harder times than we’re experiencing.

“Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You” (Psalm 33:20-22).

“Lovingkindness” or “steadfast love” are translations of the Hebrew word “chesed,” which appears over and over in Scripture. It expresses the inexpressible — the infinite faithfulness, love and mercy of the Lord, which span all generations.

He doesn’t promise permanent prosperity. He promises Himself to those who seek Him — and He never breaks a promise, no matter how long it takes to fulfill.

I thought about God’s acts of faithfulness — some large, some small — when I saw these recent reports from mission fields:

An American teenager, age 13, knew she had a story to tell. So when a natural disaster befell the people her Southern Baptist missionary family serves in East Asia, she insisted on going with her parents to minister in the area. One day she and an older Christian woman shared the Gospel with a non-Christian mother and her teenage daughter.

The mother had heard previously about Jesus’ death on the cross but hadn’t heard about His resurrection. Once she and her daughter heard the complete story of His love, however, they indicated their willingness to accept Christ. But the mother insisted her daughter was too young to make such a drastic decision.

“Well, I’m only 13 years old and I believe,” said the young American. “When God gives you understanding, it doesn’t matter how old you are.”

Both mother and daughter prayed to receive Christ that day.

In another East Asian location, a missionary had labored to the point of despair. He never imagined that he and his wife would serve among an unreached ethnic minority group for seven years without seeing any spiritual fruit whatsoever.

“For the first seven years, there was not a believer, nobody convicted of sin, nothing,” he said.

During the past year, however, they’ve seen God move.

“We have seen the first Christians come to faith, the first baptisms and the first church started,” he said, barely containing his emotion. “We have heard the first praise songs sung and seen the first Scriptures translated. Now God has raised up a leader from within the group.”

His joyful tears flowed as he praised the faithfulness of the One who called, sustained and used them to proclaim His name to those who had never heard. In His time, the response came.

And this from a Southern Baptist worker in South Asia:

“A couple of pastors I have had the privilege to train over the last year started going into an area that is hostile to just about anyone. They go in during the night and come out before daylight…. For centuries this people group have lived very difficult lives and have felt betrayed, even by God. They justified robbery and murder as retribution for their betrayal.

“[One of our pastors] told them there was a God-King who loved them. They immediately wanted to know about anyone who loved them. In the past eight months, national believers have been in 12 villages. The last meeting had 65 people attending at night. There are now more than 300 new believers among this people group.

“Praise the Lord! Nothing can stand in the way of that which God has planned. Nothing!”

If material blessings seem scarcer this Thanksgiving season, bless the Maker of all things instead. Bless Him for Himself, not just His gifts.

“Thyself, o my God. Thyself for Thine own sake, above all things I love,” prayed Lancelot Andrewes, a contemporary of Shakespeare and one of the principal translators of the King James Bible. “Thyself as my last end I long for ….”

His lovingkindness is better than life.
Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board.

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  • Erich Bridges