The turkey has been consumed, the guests have gone home and the routines have returned. Is that all there is to thanksgiving? Thankfully not. Gratitude is something that can be an integral part of our lives—we just need a reminder every now and then. There are those studies done by psychologists that reveal how thoughts and acts of gratitude have more positive impact on our overall sense of wellness than any other medical intervention. That’s impressive. But the writer of Psalm 16 takes us even deeper than that. He’s saying that the attitude of gratitude (pardon the rhyme) is the surface of something much more foundational to the infrastructure of our being. When the object of our thankfulness is our Creator, we secure for ourselves a wellness that goes beyond mental and physical health.
“I said to the LORD,” continues the psalmist in verse two, “‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing’.” David is showing us how to thank God for the goodness of His lordship in our lives.
Is it good to be under the lordship of God? What about the freedom and autonomy our western culture tells us is our right and entitlement? David, the author of this psalm, was king of the Hebrew nation. He led the realm and had all its resources at his disposal. Yet he was able to confirm that there is no thing in this life remotely good compared with the lordship of God. And he does not speak alone. If there is one theme that runs riotously throughout Scripture, it is that eyewitness experiential accounts of the lordship of God show Him to be delightfully, utterly, one-hundred-percent good for people.
God’s incarnation as a man in the person of Jesus Christ gives us a more focused view of both His lordship and His goodness. No one who has read the historical details of the life of Christ denies that His life was lived with utter goodness. He was a good son, a good brother, a good friend, teacher, healer, and miracle-worker. His death brings us unending life and relationship with the triune God and opens up to us a world and eternity of good.
But there is one catch to the goodness Christ offers us. It is tied to our response to His requirement that He be lord and master of us. He lets us mull over that decision. He gives each of us the freedom to try out the options the world offers: we can try to be lord of our own lives—making our own decisions, living by our own wits, ruling ourselves by our own version of ethical behaviours. We can let someone or something else lord over us—materialism, education, sexual/gender/family re-inventions, fame, popularity, etcetera. It’s a long list. But if we could imagine and extrapolate any of those lifestyles through to the end of our lives, would we actually say with a grateful sigh, “I’m so glad I gave everything I had for those! They were truly good for me!” Not likely.
Yet over and over again, followers of Christ who have spent their lives learning to submit to the lordship of Christ say something like this: The leadership of Christ is so good, there is no experience like it. He is good to us, He is good for us, and He is good in us and through us. His goodness creates an entirely new environment in which we live.
So the psalmist is right when he proclaims, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Life won’t necessarily be easy. Difficulties do not disappear from the lives of those who submit to Christ’s lordship. But He promises to transform us through every situation to make us like Himself, true and good to the core. That is truly something to be thankful for: we have a good Lord!
(Photo Credit: “Red autumn leaves” by Jim – http://www.flickr.com/photos/alphageek/57100167. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_autumn_leaves.jpg#/media/File:Red_autumn_leaves.jpg