My extended family just lost over 600 acres of harvestable crops to snow.
For any farmer, that would be devastating. For our family, even more so.
It’s hard to imagine that weeks ago, before the snow fell, we were talking about a bumper crop, and the abundance in the field. (For those that don’t know, a bumper crop refers to a harvest that exceeds the expectations of the farmer. There will be more grain in the bin than they anticipated. To have a bumper crop is a great thing.)
But now the reality is starting to settle in, there is no way to redeem those lost crops. They are gone. Lost food. Lost income. It would be better if the fields were somehow emptied. But that’s not the case. You can still see the standing stalks of wheat, burdened with heavy, wet snow.
It is hard to be excited about this. It’s hard to feel joyful or thankful for what crop did come in.
But I think that is exactly why God commanded Israel that whatever the harvest they were to appear before Him joyful.
“Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your wine press. BE JOYFUL AT YOUR FEAST – you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maid servants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
“Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.” – Deuteronomy 16:13-17
It is really easy to appear before the Lord and grumble and complain. It is really easy to stand beside a field that is wasted because of snow, and feel anything else but joy.
And it isn’t just a lost crop that makes us feel this way. Things happen all the time and leave us feeling terrible. You know what I’m talking about. That dead feeling inside when you honestly don’t know how things are going to get better. That gut wrenching nausea when all the bills add up to a significantly higher number than your paycheque. That emotional drained “blah”ness that washes over you, because it has just been one thing after another, after another.
It is hard to be joyful then. It is hard to be joyful now.
That is why I found it so curious that God would institute a day of Thanksgiving. Not a day to wallow in what you don’t have, what was lost, or what will never be had.
After reflecting on these verses, I came to three powerful conclusions.
One: You are going to have enough.
Regardless of the harvest, regardless of the weather, you will have enough that you will be without excuse to give back to God. Verse 17 says that you will always have something, and from that, however great, however small, you are to give it to the LORD and be thankful that He gave you anything at all.
Because, hard truth time, God doesn’t owe you anything.
But He gives you to out of His great love. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, but always making sure you are blessed, and able to bless others.
Note: God isn’t saying that things will always be easy, or that the crops will always come off on time or be a bumper crop. God doesn’t promise the greatest harvest for all of Israel, all the time, until the end of time.
What He did promise was to give them more than enough; enough to be satisfied, and have for a sacrifice.
It’s interesting how Jesus echoes this idea in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – Matthew 6:25-27
Two: You are not as hard done by as you think you are.
As much as losing 600 acres of crop sucks, our family is not in the poor house. It is a blow to the pocket, but we are not penniless. I think God made the list of people that would be at the Feast of Tabernacles with intention.
Those people without land, without a place to call their own province, they would be worse off than farmers. People not living in their home country, for one reason or another, would be alienated, looked down on, and suffer from all the issues that immigrant and strangers face. Those without fathers, or mothers, those that have lost a loved one, a caretaker, a provider, those that have no source of income whatsoever, I would say that they have a harder life, are having a worse go of things, than some people.
This list puts into perspective the truth: There are people that are struggling just like you, some more than you, some in way that you will never know. You are not so hard done by that all you can do is gripe and complain.
It’s time to be thankful for what you do have. Be joyful that you have some of anything, rather than lots of nothing.
Three: It’s time to face reality, with a smile in the heart.
Realizing we have enough, and recognizing that we are not so hard done by, puts us in a prime place for joy. A place where we begin the understand that we are recipients of grace, regardless of how much we have.
But it is not easy to do. Even for the most spiritual and righteous of humanity, it is difficult to consistently live with an attitude of thanksgiving and joy.
God, in His omnipotence, knew that humanity would struggle with this, so He made it a regular part of the calendar. Every year, every man, woman, and child would take a moment to realize that they had been blessed by God, and that they need to be thankful for what blessings they had received.
God was pushing for spiritual maturity. God was pulling Israel, and us as well, from a life of emotionally reacting to thoughtful engagement.
It is easy to look at those 600 acres and react emotionally, throw my fist in the air, and cry out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s easy to start complaining when your bills stack higher and higher, especially when your neighbours buy a new truck. It’s easy to whin and complain when we don’t get what we thought we deserved, in a job, in a promotion, in a relationship.
But God wants us to step outside of those emotions, and look at the truth. It’s not that emotions are bad, or that we are wrong or sinful to feel hurt or abandon. But they are not the truth.
The truth is, we are all richly blessed. Blessed in thousands of little ways, most that we forget or neglect because they seem so common to us. Like a heart that is still pumping, so that we can live this day. Like eye sight, so we can see our loved ones. Like…you fill in the blank.
And while that doesn’t fix the snow on our 600 acres, God says that “in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands” that He will bless us.
So, if 600 acres is lost to snow, God will bless what was harvested. If you only bring in so much money, and there are so many bills, God will still bless what you did bring in. There isn’t a promise or a guarantee that the bad things will go away. But there is a promise that God will be with you, and bless you through the bad. He will bless you with what you do have.
That is the truth. You are blessed. Even when things are rough. Even when times are tough. Even when the snow falls early and ruins a bumper crop.
Whatever things you are suffering though, whatever problems you are facing, whatever issues have fallen onto your lap, whatever blessings you did not receive…stop. Know that God has already given you plenty. Things are not as bad as you think they are. You are still richly blessed.
Be sure to check them out if you are looking for a verse, some commentaries to help you understand a passage, or a devotional to keep you in the Written Word every day. Or for those on the go, check out their app, available at the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Fire.