Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 147:12-20, Hosea 13:4-8, Acts 27:27-44, Luke 9:18-27
We complain when we’re cold, hungry, thirsty, tired, or in pain but no one ever complains: “I’m just too … satisfied.” Yet satisfaction – or perhaps more accurately self-satisfaction – led to the downfall of the nation of Israel.
Through the prophet Hosea, God shared these words with Israel: “When I fed them, they were satisfied; they were satisfied, and their heart was proud; therefore they forgot me.” In other words, God provided for them in their time of need. They were provided for so well, they started to take it for granted. Eventually, because they were without need, they forgot about God altogether.
It’s a common story, really. When we are in need or distress, we pray and demand to know: “why do I deserve this?” When God provides, and our bellies no longer ache from hunger or our hearts from sadness, it’s easy to forget where we started. We take it for granted. If part of God’s blessing required hard work from us, we may start to give ourselves a little more credit for our own success than is due – and judge others who haven’t made it as far. Sure, we say we know we owe everything to God, but do we really? When is the last time we had a well-stocked kitchen, a happy marriage, and a stretch of good health and asked: “Why do I deserve this?”
Maybe we should stay a little hungry. The spiritual discipline of fasting involves a physical hunger, an unavoidable pang we can use as a reminder to focus our attention toward God. Whether it reminds us of our own dependence, or of the needs of those who hunger not by choice, it teaches us humility and gratitude. Other disciplines – study, solitude, service, etc. – also lift us from a state of oblivious contentment and help us not to take God for granted.
Let’s sacrifice a meal, a lazy Saturday morning, or twenty dollars to a higher cause. It’s all right to feel a little deprived of the more worldly satisfaction they might have provided. That pang reminds us to focus on what’s important.
Comfort: Gratitude will improve your mood.
Challenge: Make time daily to thank God for what God has provided.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for all the blessings in my life. All glory and honor is yours. Amen.
Discussion: What do you take for granted?
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