In a world where we’re all encouraged that “you do you”, author Elizabeth McQuoid explains that we’re not made to define our own identities but for glorious dependence on our loving creator.
In a culture with zero limits on ambition, why are we still so unhappy? We’re told we can have, do or be anything we want, but in the social media-soaked, self-focused chaos of life – “you do you”, “self-love”, “you are enough” – we find ourselves deeply dissatisfied.
It is not that we shouldn’t want things. The God who made our desires cares more about them than we do. But nothing strips the joy from life faster than a sense that we are owed something. We live with a constant thrum of anxiety, snatching, striving, envying our neighbour, and wondering if they’ve been given more than we have. Even if we get what we want: the relationship, the promotion, the accolade, it only seems to make us hungrier, as we look for the next thing to fill what Blaise Pascal would call “the God-shaped hole in our hearts”.
God loves us too much to leave us with a “me-centred” view of life. We were not made to define our own identities but for glorious dependence on our loving creator. When we see that nothing is an automatic right – not even the air in our lungs – it rightly positions us, releasing a deep stream of wellbeing into our souls, as we gaze in awed gratitude on the One who has given us everything.
Nothing strips the joy from life faster than a sense that we are owed something.
It’s worth saying here that this is not an article about how everyone just needs to shut up, grit their teeth, and get on with gratefulness. There is real, deep suffering in people’s lives, and we should not ignore the cost-of-living crisis, the lingering pains of the pandemic or the real deprivation that afflicts so many of us in this country. Gratefulness is not choking back our valid needs, but seeing that God holds us through them, and that when we have exhausted every option, devoured every worldly hope, he comes with himself, and we see that our every longing finds its answer in him.
As we prepare for the Keswick Convention 2022 this year – the theme is “Grateful” - and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on gratitude. As commissioning editor for Keswick Ministries, I’m releasing a set of our Food for the Journey devotionals this year, which focus on key aspects of God and the Christian walk (“Love”, ”Hope” and “Holiness”), and reveal how life in Christ is one of eternally receiving all that God has given us, with only a grateful heart to offer in response.
People who take do so because they are afraid that they will not receive - but we are not orphans; we are his children (John 14:18).
COVID-19, which stripped away everything we took for granted, taught us that the simplest things – a laugh with a friend; the fresh air on our faces – are unsolicited gifts. How extraordinary and beautiful life becomes when we see that even a single heartbeat is a generous gift from our creator. By the time we get to the cross – God piercing his beloved son and pouring out everything heaven had to set us free - the extravagant, extraordinary, and scandalous grace of the Lord is thrown into exquisite relief. We can walk into our purpose: to eternally receive, depend upon, and worship God. We don’t need to snatch and take. People who take do so because they are afraid that they will not receive - but we are not orphans; we are his children (John 14:18).
The fact that gratitude exists as a feeling at all is interesting, and a striking picture of our relationship with our creator. Even people without a faith feel grateful for things in their lives (for example, jobs or relationships), but don’t quite know who to be grateful to. This is a wonderful reminder that our hearts were made for a God who has given us everything.
You can get 20% off the Keswick Food for The Journey Devotionals - ‘Love’, ‘Holiness’ and ‘Hope’ - if you buy them together here.