Thanksgiving is fast approaching. As we look back on 2020 and think about those things we are thankful for, what will be on the list this year—a year of so much lack? Sickness. Quarantine. Shut downs. Cancellations. Isolation. Violence. Natural disasters. Unemployment. Political division and angst. Fear. Anxiety. Depression. Chaos. Frustration.
When you gather around your Thanksgiving table, will there be less people than normal? Will you connect with family via a computer screen? Where are the blessings, you might be asking. Where is God in all of this? Where is all the good?
Stop. Pause. Take a breath.
Make it a good one. Breathe in slowly. Now breathe out.
Feel better? You can write that one down on your list of blessings.
Not only does breathing keep us alive, but slow, controlled breathing can calm your nerves, reduce stress, and boost your immune system. A gift within a gift. And where does our breath come from? Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Every breath you breathe is a gift from God. He is the sustainer of all things. In Him, all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). So if you’re alive, it’s because He deems it so. And this holds true for believer and nonbeliever alike. We all deserve death, not life (Romans 6:23), and yet we do not die immediately upon sinning. God, in His grace, grants us life. And not just life, but life full of undeserved blessings. Wayne Grudem, in his book Bible Doctrine, defines this as “common grace.” It is grace seen in innumerable blessings and is not a part of salvation. It is “common to all people” and not restricted only to believers.
God’s common grace leads us to His saving grace, and His saving grace binds us to Him for all eternity.
God, in His goodness, spills over with grace. Our lives are dripping with it. Step outside and feel the sun on your skin. Or, in our part of the country, close your umbrella, take off your hood, tilt your face to the sky, and let the rain pour on your face.
Our good Father “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” It’s by His grace that the sun and rain bring both beauty and usefulness everywhere. Rainbows. Green grass. Bright flowers. Trees that stay green. Trees that change color. Food that nourishes. Materials for clothing and shelter.
Is your list of blessings growing yet? Oh, Friends! “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made…The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16).
There is abundant evidence of God’s good character everywhere: our sense of right and wrong, our ability to grasp truth, every modern convenience of science and technology, every creative expression and ability to appreciate beauty, can all be seen as a result of God’s grace. But why? For what purpose?
Take another breath and soak in this answer: For you.
To draw you to Himself.
“God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). God’s common grace leads us to His saving grace, and His saving grace binds us to Him for all eternity. We breathe that we might have time to repent, and in our repenting, be enveloped in the saving arms of a Father that loves us freely. God’s goodness is on display every minute of every day. “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17). “For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift]” (John 1:16 AMP).
This is God’s nature. This is God’s character. God is love. God is good. And He pours His blessing on us in unending ways simply because it’s His nature to do so. We are the beneficiaries of His good will. Where our sin abounds—where the depravity of this world and our futile efforts lie in heaps around us—God’s grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).
So, as you prepare to sit around your Thanksgiving table and share your list of blessings, prepare your friends and family that the mashed potatoes might get cold. Your list is already at 42. For in the time it took to read this post, you’ve most likely taken about 42 breaths. If you want to count the whole year, you’re ready for blessing #22,001. I’d say that’s a good start…