Once again Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we have a wonderful opportunity to consider all that God has done for us! But if you are at all like me, sometimes it is difficult to truly give thanks with genuine happiness. It is far easier to rejoice with gratitude than it is to be grateful with joy. When we are happy, we are spontaneously inclined to show appreciation to the people or for the things that bring happiness. But when we are not happy, our gratitude can become forced. When that happens, our gratitude looks, feels, and sounds more like a philosophical acknowledgment that “things could be worse.”
This morning as I write our “Thanksgiving Devotions” I invite you to consider an overlooked passage of scripture that might help us to give thanks with true joy for what God has given us – no matter what our condition.
In Job 39:13, the Lord speaks to Job:
The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
But they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork.
What a fascinating verse. If we were to consider what part of the ostrich is its most useless, inadequate, inferior, embarrassing feature – it would surely be its wings. God himself tells us that the ostrich’s wings are nothing compared to those of a stork! Yet, the ostrich flaps those useless, inadequate, inferior, and embarrassing wings with joy! Apparently, she couldn’t care less how her wings compared to those of the stork.
Humans are sadly different. We tend to always compare whatever gifts we have been given to the gifts other people have been given. If God has providentially given us an income, a spouse, a family, a house, a measure of health, a skill… our joy is tempered if not erased entirely when we compare our jobs, spouses, houses, or skills to those of others. And so we begin to covet our neighbors’ goods, health, relationships, money, abilities, etc… and begin to actually despise our own stubby useless wings. We hide them and keep them tucked away. We do not flap them joyfully.
God concludes his ostrich lesson with another picture of joyful abandon:
Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
She laughs at horse and rider.
How are you running as Thanksgiving approaches? Many of us run like rats. We are constantly trying to “keep up with the Joneses” and are habitually discontent with what we have, who we are, what we can do… This year, let’s get out of the rat race, let’s stop comparing our wings and feathers to those of others, and get into the ostrich race! Let’s spread whatever feathers the Lord in his grace and goodness has given us and run with laughter and joy – giving thanks to God who has wonderfully blessed us.