Sunday, August 5, 2012

Count Your Blessings

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

While the dwarves explore the vacant (for now) lair of Smaug the dragon and begin to inventory the treasure therein, the people of Lake-town are having a different experience altogether, bearing the brunt of the dragon's anger towards the invaders of the Lonely Mountain. Smaug is killed, but not without great cost to the townsfolk. Tolkien describes the aftermath thus:

The waxing moon rose higher and higher and the wind grew loud and cold. It twisted the white fog into bending pillars and hurrying clouds and drove it off to the West to scatter in tattered shreds over the marshes before Mirkwood. Then the many boats could be seen dotted dark on the surface of the lake, and down the wind came the voices of the people of Esgaroth lamenting their lost town and goods and ruined houses. But they had really much to be thankful for, had they thought of it, though it could hardly be expected that they should just then: three quarters of the people of the town had at least escaped alive; their woods and fields and pastures and cattle and most of their boats remained undamaged; and the dragon was dead. What that meant they had not yet realized. (Chapter 14)

This passage reminds me of a recent Sunday School lesson on the Israelites, who often seemed less than grateful for their new-found freedom from slavery as they wandered in the desert. Many times they questioned Moses's leadership and complained that he had brought them out of Egypt just to die in the wilderness – it was better when they were slaves because at least then they had plenty of food to eat and water to drink. It didn't seem to matter that God had helped them escape from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and given them manna and quail to eat, and water from rocks, providing for them every time they needed something.

We're not much different sometimes. Overwhelmingly negative circumstances can distract us from acknowledging the ways that God continues to take care of us and provide the things we need most. May we be ever mindful of God's providence, both when times are good and when times are bad, so that no matter what happens we can recognize and be thankful for what we have.

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