We live in the midst of an instant gratification culture. Whatever will help us do what we want to do faster, whether computers, diet supplements, or lotto tickets, we gravitate toward them en masse. Consequently, when things aren’t going well, we want to blame what is easiest to blame: someone or something else. I know people, specifically, who, when asked about their relationship with God, they respond by asking, “What has He done for me lately?” Likewise, in one of the only conversations in which my dad let down his guard about how much of a personal burden terminal brain cancer was for him personally, before he passed away last year he said, “I just don’t understand why it has to be this way.” That statement, which may seem insignificant to most, coming from the cast iron vessel that I knew as my dad, was a signal flare of true despair. I, too, was asking many of the same questions at the time.
But, through life lessons that I’ve learned since he passed away, I’ve found hope and a measure of peace in the notion that there is a far bigger story being told that we are a part of. As outlined in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, some of the most significant figures in the bible acted on faith in accordance with God’s plan without ever having the chance to see a payoff, let alone a happy ending. We all have a chance to choose. We can either live our lives in a perpetual search for instant gratification, viewing life through a short-term lens that always takes into consideration our own inclinations, first and foremost, or we can trust God with the big picture, adjust our perspective by focusing on the needs of those around us, and be thankful for what we have.
“Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.” Hebrews 11:39-40 (The Message)
I have much to be thankful for, not the least of which is the peace that came over my dad in his final hours, after a period of distinct restlessness and frustration, when I promised him that, in a very short time, Jesus was going to welcome him and that everything would be better. Now, almost two years later, I am thankful for that same promise and the hope that, after counting my blessings here, there will be so many more there.