by Scott Sutton
1 When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
I’ll admit, I don’t exactly know where I am going with this blog entry as I type it. But when I was first approached about writing on this topic, this verse immediately came to my mind. I couldn’t shake it. And one thing I have learned about unshakable verses is to always follow them wherever they lead.
It’s a song of people remembering what it was like as they walked the road out of darkness and captivity back to their home and their promise. Think about that for a minute. Imagine that you have been held captive by an enemy for weeks, months, years – who knows – and you are finally set free. Think about what you are feeling as you walk the road home. Think about your reaction when the skyline of your hometown first comes into view. I imagine myself laughing. I imagine myself singing. I imagine myself dreaming. I imagine that feeling you get when something you have hoped so hard and so long for finally happens and it turns out to be even better than you had hoped it would be. You know that feeling. Acing the exam. Nailing the performance. Landing the perfect role, the perfect job, the perfect opportunity. Putting something out into the world that the rest of the world can’t get enough of. That swooning lightness, that feeling like you might burst out of your own skin, like you could run and never grow tired. That’s what these people are feeling. Only they aren’t feeling it because of something they have done; they are feeling it because of something God has done for them.
And just like our preparation for the exam, performance, role, whatever is often fraught with failures, adversities, setbacks, and dark times, you can imagine that these peoples’ captivity was full of its own darkness and pain. Often times, prevailing over the dark times is almost sweeter than the achievement itself. And certainly, a key part of the thrill is knowing that the odds were in favor of you quitting, stopping, losing hope. Had we lost hope through the darkness, our enjoyment may have been muted or it may have never come at all.
And maybe that’s my first point in this blog: thanksgiving begins in the darkness. It begins when there doesn’t seem like there is anything to be thankful for. The captive ones returning to Zion weren’t only just now becoming thankful to God. They had been thankful to him throughout their captivity, hopeful that his deliverance would come. And when it finally came, they couldn’t contain themselves. But it all began in darkness.
Maybe that’s where this holiday (this year, this decade) finds you. In darkness. Personal, relational, mental, physical, spiritual, emotional darkness. Praying fervently for a deliverance that doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon. Thanksgiving isn’t about faking happiness through dark times. It isn’t about pretending the darkness isn’t there or convincing yourself that everything be fine if you just put your head down and keep on trucking. Thanksgiving is about reaching for God and finding him in the darkness, confessing your fears to him, and trusting that the God who knows how many stars are in the universe also knows how many hairs are on your head. He is bigger than the entire universe and yet also within you. Because you matter as much to him as the entire universe does. Thanksgiving begins somewhere here.
And, finally, my second point: thanksgiving gives. (I know, how clever, right?) In verses 2 and 3 of the psalm, we see that the nations around Israel couldn’t help but acknowledge that Israel’s God had done a great thing for his people. And his people couldn’t help but agree! Maybe this holiday isn’t finding you in darkness. Maybe you resonate more with the end of verse three, being filled with joy. Proclaim it, then! To others. Back to God. Often. Share your thanksgiving in tangible ways so that those around us might dream and laugh and sing and praise God with us.
Check out our most recent series: The “S” Word
Scripture Reference: Ephesians 5:21-23
What wives want: him to prove himself to her
What he needs: unconditional respect
What husbands want: sex
What wives need: unconditional love
Questions to Ponder
How would you describe what women want in marriage?
How would you describe what men want in marriage?
How do these wants contrast with real needs?