What comes to mind when you read the name of God recorded in the Scriptures as “I Am?” It seems mysterious, even odd in our language. We know and believe that “He is,” but that is a bit confusing as a name. So, what is “I Am”? No words can answer that question in its entirety, but we can attempt to describe Him. He is all-encompassing, all-knowing, all-powerful, indescribably present in all things and all-together worthy of our praise. The phrase “I Am” touches upon the impossibility of our heart and mind to grasp all that He is.

Psalm 139:7-12

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me;

12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

We, like Jacob, struggle at times against the Most High and His ways. This struggle comes about due to a void in comprehension of who He is and a lack of faith in His character. Like Peter, we doubt that He is the same today as the Word describes Him to be. We must reckon with the often-challenging intimacies of the relationship He calls us into. Our entire being – head, heart, and spirit – must be submitted to His Lordship. When we ask Him questions, which we ought to, He will answer us. In a world that is spiraling upside down and topsy turvy, the goodness of the mysteries of God stand in stark contrast. The solidness of His Word and the reliability of His truth ought to illicit a joy inexhaustible and gratitude of the highest order.

There is a sort of appreciation that whisps away in a moment and yet is good. The feeling you receive as the traffic jam gives way and you can finally accelerate to highway speeds, or the ketchup dropped from a hotdog missing your new white shirt. These moments of relief splash a healthy dose of thankfulness and gladness into our day. We can and should be thankful for convenience; appreciative for the impressive efficiency of a Chic-fil-a or an important delivery arriving ahead of schedule. We ought to flex the mental muscles of thankfulness as often as we can. When life brings about moments of goodness, the heart of a child of God should be quick to give thanks.

This is certainly not the be-all-end-all of where gratitude ought to be expressed, but it is perhaps not so small as to be ignored either. Do you feel thankful for the little things? The fall leaves shining brightly and the crispness of an autumn sunset? How about the warmth and pleasant aroma of a morning cup of coffee? When we are not acknowledging thankfulness for the simple pleasantness of life, we are unlikely to express it in other areas where it is due. How many wives wish their husbands took notice and expressed gratitude for a clean floor when they arrive home from work? How many employers would be thrilled to have an employee thank them for the little updates made to the office with their contentment in mind? Take note if you are drudging along with an ungrateful mind. Are you overly attentive to discontentment and taking for granted all the morsels of delight? If properly cultivated, thankfulness is the soil out of which righteousness grows.

John 15:4 says “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

There are enough flowering lessons to fill a forest that can be drawn from this passage; and it seems to be that in the healthiest, leafy, fruit-filled branches of the vine, gratitude abounds in bunches.

The soul of man, however, is susceptible to rot and disease. How often are we uprooted by the weightiness of undefined troubles, griefs inexpressible, and hardships wrought with shame that we are drawn away into seclusion in the dark? Is this state of mind operating with gratitude? The merciless thorns and thickets clutching after the human mind often illicit feelings of capture, bondage, and unavoidable suffering. The angst of a broken heart is no new phenomenon.

Consider the words of the Psalmist:

“My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” Psalm 6:3

“Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, And my relatives stand afar off.” Psalm 38:9-11

The consistency by which we read this sort of expression throughout the Psalms is no accident. The Bible clearly demonstrates a pattern of lament and anguish as a characteristic of the human experience. “Jesus wept” says a lot about who we are as humans. We weep, we cry out, we fear and flail and suffer. This is no cakewalk. This life is not fair, or easy. The “hevel” (Hebrew word for vapor and used repeatedly throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes) of this life renders complete satisfaction out of reach and impossible to definitively grasp onto. Fleeting moments of peace seem to drift away, gone again on the winds of time. The hits, as they say, just keep on comin.’ This is true for the lost and the redeemed.

So, where do we begin to move forward? Where is the Way through the tangle?

Those suffering the brutality of this world, and the consequences of wretched sinfulness, are offered solace through Jesus Christ alone. We find it under the shadow of death, but not through cheesy platitudes on Christianese bumper stickers or by a watered-down and secularly polluted subversion of truth. Relief is available, and the water in His well does truly satisfy, but only when drank deeply during a genuine encounter with our Spiritual High Priest who has suffered as we have suffered and is reigning in Glory with the scars to prove it.

God, in his grand sovereignty, has seen fit to require the “coming to the end of oneself” as the only proper place to begin fellowship within the Body of Christ. There is no room for prideful arrogance or haughty self-determination. You must allow Him to break you down to nothing and remake you entirely in the image of Christ as we have the courage to follow. We must be overcome by the weight of glory in worshipful gratitude at the remembrance of Him bearing the cross we deserve.

Our troubles are not eradicated when we come to Him. Lest we send fools to their untimely deaths, let us at least be honest with those we disciple. Tell them to buckle up and strap on the weapons of war, because we’re sending them to the front lines. You have nothing to give Him, nothing to offer, and yet He has rescued you. There in that void is birthed righteous gratitude flowing in Spirit and Truth and there in that fertile soil does it grow.

He’s gone before you and declared the end from the beginning. So, go. Follow. Take up your cross, your smooth stones, move forward into the Promised land and encircle the enemy’s camp. Your King is already advancing, and the gates of hell will not prevail. His eternal Kingdom is at hand, and we have much to be thankful for.

Psalm 22:27–31

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD.  All the families of the nations will bow down before you,

28 for kingship belongs to the LORD; he rules the nations.

29 All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down; all those who go down to the dust will kneel before him — even the one who cannot preserve his life.

30 Their descendants will serve him; the next generation will be told about the Lord.

31 They will come and declare his righteousness; to a people yet to be born they will declare what he has done. 

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