"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits... He is compassionate, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy... He does not treat us as our sins deserve. ..."
- From Psalm 103
Shortly before Thanksgiving some years ago I completed a rush job for the magazine I worked for, and received the following letter in response:
"You're a real trooper, Barbara, and I don't mean the kind with a flashing blue light on top."
I couldn't believe his choice of words, nor the enclosed $100 check - the exact amount of the speeding ticket I had received that very day when a real trooper, flashing lights and all, clocked me at 15 mph over the speed limit on Skinner Mill Road.
I've often lived by the Scripture verse, "God shall supply all your need...." (Philippians 4:19), but money for a traffic fine, too?
It's been a while since that November up-and-down day, but I'll never forget the irony of that experience in supply and demand, or of a God who cares that much for a wayward child. It had been 15 years since my last traffic violation, but only about 15 minutes since my speedometer registered more miles per hour than the law allowed. I guess I had forgotten that other verse, the one that tells us no matter how long it takes, "your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). Thankfully, no matter how long it takes, it's also true that the "plenteous mercy of God" will find us, too. (Psalm 103:8)
One of the benefits I'll always be grateful for is my birth into a family with strong, religious roots. Sunday School and worship, mid-week prayer meeting, and a lifestyle compatible with what we learned in church shaped my life more than any competing influence ever would. Even today, stories or verses I learned from the Bible will pop into my head whenever a need or comparable situation comes along.
Still I'm apt to forget how many benefits God is waiting to bestow, like the promise in Isaiah 65:24, "Before they call, I will answer," which my recent $100 check - en route before my need arose - resoundingly shows. So today, as I contemplate Thanksgiving, I'm recalling other days when my heavenly benefits were way out of proportion to what I deserved.
"My, that's a big one," the doctor said of the lump he discovered in my abdomen. Even with a strong faith, I knew cancer was no discriminator of persons. Christians die prematurely, too. My friend immediately quoted John 11:4: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God." Although I clung to that promise throughout my ordeal, knowing Jesus had spoken those words just before he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, I wasn't sure I wanted them to apply to me. Seven weeks later, however, my benign tumor was removed, and I've been tumor-free ever since.
Sometimes it wasn't my body but my behavior that needed surgery. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday, not 30 years ago. For several days I had been wrestling with a decision between what I knew to be right, and something I didn't learn in Sunday School. Consumed with my thoughts I forgot about the cuffed trousers I wore as I descended a flight of stairs, until I caught one foot in the other cuff and started to fall. It may have been the railing that saved me, but in the wider picture I think it was the familiar benediction promise from the book of Jude that came instantly to mind: "All glory to God who is able to keep you from falling, and present you faultless before his presence with exceeding joy."
I don't know why God took care of my fine, spared my body from cancer or a fall, or kept me from a decision I would have regretted the rest of my life when others succumb to similar circumstances every day. I don't know why his mercy is still so plenteous or his grace so amazing and undeserved. But as we also are told, "God makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45).
Some comforting, thankful words to go with our feasting, family day this week.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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