These are hopeless days for lots of people. The economy is getting worse. People are losing their jobs. They can’t afford homes. They can’t afford health care. Everybody is scared of the swine flue. We’re selling our country to China. There is no end in sight to the war in Iraq. Terrorism is a constant threat. So is crime.
So we have a lot to be thankful for.
Look at Zacharias in Luke 1:67-79 to see what I mean. Here’s a man who loses his job (a priest without a voice is not a priest) and can’t explain why to his wife. At least, not with words. And not only that, but as with all Jewish people about 2000 years ago in Israel, they were heavily taxed by the oppressive Roman government. We can’t say for sure, but I have to wonder if Zacharias lost his home (They say John grew up in the wilderness. Why, if he had a home?) And on top of it all, he’s got a son coming. And Zacharias, if he is as old as he says, probably won’t be around long enough to see John reach adulthood.
Yet as we read what Zacharias says, he praises God for what God is about to do in and for Israel through his son, John. Things are not great for Zacharias, but he sees a glimmer of light. In verses 78-79, he talks about the morning light that is about to break upon those who sit in the darkness of the shadow of death. He is talking about himself and all those in Israel who are in similar situations. Also, he is quoting from Psalm 107, which is about how to give thanks to God, even in the midst of misery and despair. Psalm 107 lays out four different groups of people who are facing misery, despair, and even death. When they cried out to God, He intervened, and so they give thanks.
As a nation, and for many of us as individuals, we are at the place where these four groups were at in Psalm 107, and where Zacharias was before the birth of John. But if we cry out to God for rescue, we can expectantly thank Him for the deliverance that will follow. Tough times are not times to despair, but times of opportunity for our faith and thankfulness to grow.