Thankful, Even When You’re Not Ready

There’s a phrase that goes, “Already, but not yet.”

When a real war is being fought, there will be a “decisive battle.” At that point, the war has been won, but it won’t really be over until all has been communicated and everyone has gone home. Already, but not yet.

In baseball, if the batting team is down a point or two, and it’s the final bat of the game, with the bases loaded, and the batter hits a home run – the game has been won! But not until everyone actually runs to home base. Already, but not yet.

(Stick with me – this really has to do with thankfulness…)

In the Bible book of Habakkuk, in chapter 3, verses 17-19, we read, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

The kingdom of Judah had sinned greatly, and God’s punishment for that sin was to send the Babylonian empire against Judah (here’s some background information, if you want to get into details: https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-habakkuk).

But God, being a good God, was also going to protect His faithful people in the midst of the takeover, would restore Israel, and then would judge Babylon.

In the verses above, before all of the takeover started, Habakkuk was saying to the people, “Already, but not yet.” Peace was on the horizon – just not yet. God has won – you just haven’t seen it yet.

Frederick Douglass – a man who was born a slave around 1817*, but educated himself, escaped slavery, and went on to being famous as an abolitionist, suffragist, preacher, author, editor, and diplomat – had a hard life, but through harder work and reliance on Christ, he trusted that He would free him. First was spiritual freedom, then physical freedom. But there was an arduous time between the two. Already, but not yet.

There are plenty of people today who are undergoing trials – neighbors, those foreign to us, friends and family, coworkers. I suppose one could rightfully assume that everyone you come in contact with has some trial. They may be the next Habakkuk or Frederick, but they may not be. Because all people are made in God’s image, giving people hope is not relegated to the famous and influential, nor just to those who we hope will become so. We only know “now,” and that’s where we have to act.

Those who trust in God also hope in God. Those who hope in God also thank God. Those who know Him know, by faith, that He will bring salvation. Habakkuk gives us the famous verse, “The just shall live by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4, echoed in Romans 1:17.

Because we hope in God, we can, like Habakkuk, thank the triune God for what He hasn’t delivered yet – restoration, salvation, complete reconciliation. We are saved, but not yet; we are whole, but not yet; we are perfected but not yet.

On the practical side of things, for those who have the means, sponsoring children through Compassion International is a great way to spread hope. Those children who are unsponsored lack one or more of the basics of life – clean water, good food, hygiene, clothing…things that those of us with means can easily take for granted. (Here’s a fun video about this: http://www.charlottestories.com/local-charlotte-church-released-christmas-video-thats-going-viral-4-million-views/). Sponsorship provides these things. And you, the sponsor, provide the personal side of things. All of these children have hope, but they may not know who to thank. When you sponsor a child, you’re the immediate one they will thank, yet each one also needs to know that the one they really need to thank, the One who led you to sponsor them, is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

You can let them know that they’ll graduate – just not yet. They’re already stronger – but not yet. They’re already better off than they were – but maybe they don’t see it yet. It’s astounding to think that, through Compassion, my family and I can have a positive, even life-changing, effect on people in other countries! In a simple way, we can help transform others’ lives.

Everyone has, or will have, tough times. We need to work together, to encourage each other, to exhort each other to hang in there, to hope in God, and be thankful for His good gifts, even if He hasn’t sent them yet.

*Because slave birth records weren’t kept (or even made), Frederick’s father was unknown to him, his mother was kept from him often, and she died when he was ten, we don’t know when he was born. Later, he chose February 14 as his birthdate because his mother had called him her little valentine.

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Hope

“If, instead of trusting in God, I trust only in my own intelligence, my own strength, and my own prudence, the means that God has given me to find my way to Him will all fail me. Nothing created is of any ultimate use without hope. To place your trust in visible things is to live in despair.”

— Thomas Merton, “No Man is an Island”

lighthouse, sunset, hope, walkway, maine

(here’s more if you want to read more)

“And yet, if I hope in God, I must also make a confident use of the natural aids which, with grace, enable me to come to Him. If He is good, and if my intelligence is His gift, then I must show my trust in His goodness by making use of my intelligence. I must let faith elevate, heal, and transform the light of my mind. If He is merciful, and if my freedom is a gift of  His mercy, I must show my trust in His mercy by making use of my free will. I must let hope and charity purify and strengthen my human liberty and raise me to the glorious autonomy of a son of God.”

Liberty, Hope, Life

I wake up, pretty much, whenever I like. Sometimes it hurts to rise-and-shine, but my wife and I have 10 kids, including a nursing infant, to get going each day, so getting up at a proper time and setting a good example aren’t option! I have a job I have to do, though I, as most Americans, have days I can take off pretty much whenever desired. I get breakfast and coffee (home-roasted, btw!); work out (I won’t say how often); we homeschool; I work from home (which I really like). A hot shower is always available. If something breaks, I have one or more ways to get it fixed.

My family is far from what many would consider rich, but we have all that we need, plus a lot more. We have choices to make each day, though many choices such as food, activities, weekend events, and weekly church are already settled into our weekly routine. And even those “settled” things can be changed as we need.

This is all the fruit of liberty. I won’t go into any specifics about the different aspects of things such as capitalism or about the founding of the U.S.A– I’ll just leave it at liberty.

Most people reading this have liberty. You have an internet connection, a house (and mortgage?), a car (and car payment?), your choice of schooling, your choice of your place of worship. These, and so much more, are the fruits of liberty – in general, people with money have choices. There are rough spots in life for everyone, but with the financial system we have in the USA even those who are strapped for cash can buy a house or car using a loan; we can use a credit card; we can save and invest; we can get a job; we can work from home; we can own a business. You’re correct in thinking that it’s not all easy or easily accessible, but most of you reading this have liberty, and therefore you have choices.

Before they’re sponsored, Compassion children don’t have many, if any, choices. They don’t get to choose where they eat breakfast, or necessarily what and how often they eat and drink. They don’t get to put milk/honey/cream/etc. in coffee or tea (if they even have those).  As odd as it sounds, they don’t get to go into debt, because they don’t have a sound financial system upon which they can draw to even get started. Unless someone from outside reaches out to them, they are stuck.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion, you give them the one thing that underlies pretty much every good thing in life – hope. What gets you to the next day? Hope that things will be just that much better tomorrow; hope that I’ll get it right next week; hope that our kids will do better next month; hope that, with treatment, our loved one will be in remission next year.

Sponsoring a child lets them know that they’ll get good food this month. Next month, maybe a new toothbrush. Your Christmas gift to them may be the only way they get a new school uniform. As they look down the road, through the years, they see that as the support continues, they can break the cycle of poverty. And it gives their parents hope – hope that their child can live a different and better life. It gives the child the hope that he can come back and help his parents. Or that she can come back with her husband to help their village. The fruits of hope are almost boundless.

Sponsoring a child through Compassion means you give up some of the fruits of your labor and liberty. However, giving up some of the fruits of your liberty doesn’t take away your liberty, but rather gives liberty to someone else. And liberty brings hope. And hope brings life.