How Many “Glad” Days in a Year?
“Glads” make us glad! Flowers, apart from being gifts of appreciation, tokens of love, and friendly gestures, have a beauty which can and may buoy us up. In one of his “Peanuts” cartoons, Charles Shultz has Charlie Brown hugging Snoopy and questioning, “What if today, we were just grateful for everything? Such an attitude of thankfulness would make for a kinder, more satisfied world, but is that possible? Was the Apostle Paul a bit too exuberant in his exhortation that it was the will of God to be thankful in all circumstances? (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
This week, Americans celebrate our national Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully, it will be a time to not only remember the hardships endured by the early Plymouth Pilgrims who helped establish our nation and set it on a path toward the still not fully realized ideals of equality, liberty and justice, but also to emulate their gratitude toward God for his sovereignty over their lives even in difficult times, and to appreciate all the goodness in our personal lives.
Regardless of the difficulties and restrictions experienced in various stages of civilization by limited knowledge and technology, natural disasters, and the evilness of men, there have always been those who have sensed God’s involvement in the affairs of men, have understood that all good things come from Him, and have experienced a spiritual joy exceeding that of thankfulness for good circumstances, material things, and human relationships.
That kind of joy is a gift. When the “Mosaic Law” was rediscovered after their Babylonian captivity, the Israelites realized they had betrayed God and wept tears of grief and repentance. Nehemiah comforted them: “…do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10) Knowing that, they celebrated with “great rejoicing.” The “joy of the Lord” is bestowed. It is relational in nature. Muslims, Jews and Christians believe hat God is the Creator of mankind and has revealed Himself to humanity, but to the Jew and Christian He is more than a master. He is the loving Heavenly Father of His people. Through unconditional love and extreme grace, He offers forgiveness even in the face of rebellion, rejection, and grave dishonoring. As such, His joy is embedded in, manifested by, and conveyed through encouragement, support, discipline, security, and protection for His children. When received, His joy induces a healthy, loving reciprocation from those who trust the Father’s good purposes, who desire to be their best selves, and who follow the Father’s principles for living.
This sweet mutual commitment, loyalty, and dedication between God and His children is spoken of throughout Scripture. The prophet Zephaniah spoke of God’s joy, of His rejoicing “with gladness” and exulting with “loud singing” over the salvation He provided His people. (Zephaniah 3:17) The Psalmist’s song affirmed the happiness found in redemption: “…in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7) Jesus’s life’s example and teachings continued the refrain and meld the joy of heaven with that on earth. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
The Gospel is the story of bestowing. God’s merciful grace gives the blessedness of forgiveness and reconciliation with “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Jesus’ parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son reveal the great earthly and heavenly joy over those who discover or return to the faith, over those who respond to God’s active pursuit and for whom He patiently waits to return. (Luke 15) The Apostle Paul continues this stream of thought in his letter to the Colossian Church. He speaks of “giving thanks to the Father, who …has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14)
Could it be that Charlie Brown was on to something? Every day can be a glad day, a day of Thanksgiving, because joy is relational and derived from God not circumstances. It is the joy of trusting God and praying “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” because He always has redemptive interests of his children in mind. The Psalmist held that keen confidence in God. “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94:19) “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:1)