More than the personal transformational power of gratitude, thanksgiving opens the gate, ushering us into the Presence of God. This truth became even more real to me this past week.
Psalm 118 sits between the shortest and longest chapters in the Bible, assuming a central location between the book’s beginning and ending. By accident? Not at all! This psalm contains not only a central position but a central theme relevant for us all. Within these verses, the psalmist encourages us to maintain a heart of praise and thanksgiving toward God.
Did such an attitude come easily? As we read this small psalm, we discover some of the difficulty the writer faced. If he was anything like most of us, to maintain a thankful heart posture took concentrated effort.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
The Message translation states it simply, “Thank God because he’s good, because his love never quits.” We all need these affirming words when life clouds our vision, and our perception of God dims. The psalmist reminds us, God’s love never quits. He is always good and always loving.
Love Never Quits
My love quits. It falters and wanes. It has limits — often much too narrow limits. But not God!
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love …”
1 John 4:16
God doesn’t just love, He is love. There is no love apart from God. His love satisfies our soul and sustains us. It never wearies; it builds and releases us to reach our full potential.
A few weeks ago, one of my grandchildren asked, “Grandma, will you ever stop loving me?” Oh, how wonderful to reassure my little one that the love we share would never grow cold. Just like my grandchild, we all need that assurance.
Though people may fail us, God never will. His love never quits.
Strength and Defense
We don’t read very far to realize the psalmist struggled with real fear in the face of real enemies. None of us are promised a tranquil road through life. But just as God’s love and goodness lifted Him through every trial, He will do the same for us.
“When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD;
he brought me into a spacious place.
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid …”
Do you feel hard pressed? In distress? Troubled or hurting? Even there, God promises to open a way for us. He will never abandon us. He stays close. In His shelter, all fear flees.
“The LORD is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
As I look back over my life, time and again God became my strength in weakness and my defense in trouble. He lifted me out of the pits of depression and addiction. He rescued me from destruction mindsets and patterns. He protected me from harm. None of it instantly; all of it eventually.
With the psalmist we sing,
“…The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
When we feel like there is no way through, thanksgiving for who He is and all He has done opens the gate.
Opens the Gate
A gate stands before us. Thanksgiving opens the gate to the Presence of God.
“Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.“
Nothing ushers us into His Presence more than a heart overflowing with thankfulness. A friend’s recent experience illustrates this so beautifully.
God has been doing some incredible things in his life since he recommitted himself to the Lord. But his heart grieves over divisions in his family. As he began to thank God for his family, the whole atmosphere around him began to shift. As an overwhelming sense of God’s Presence descended, he wept uncontrollably with joy. Several hours later, the tangible Presence of God continued to arrest him, filling him with a strong sense of God victoriously working through every member of his family.
Thanksgiving opens the gate, setting us free, planting us in spacious, heavenly places while we walk in the confines of earthly bodies.
Is this a rare and unusual experience? Not for those who develop the habit of giving thanks to God. Like the psalmist, they have learned the open passageway — thanksgiving opens the gate to God’s Presence.
May the Holy Spirit stir within us, awakening us to this living truth. May our hearts ebb and flow with the rhythms of praise.
“You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”