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Substance (10) – Welcome to the Ordinary (Part II)

Last week I wrote about why we should ‘embrace the ordinary’; this week I will write about how we can pursue that by embracing rest, work, and gratitude.

Rest is an important part of life. When we rest we prove that we mean it when we say that we trust that God has wisely ordered the world, that His commandments lead to our good, and that He will provide our needs. While we are called to be productive, we are not called to be busy.

Along with rest we must also value producing and serving over consuming and receiving. By our work we help the weak by providing them with goods and services that they are unable to provide for themselves. What is more, practically speaking, unproductive people are almost always unhappy.

Yet in thinking about work we must not adopt a worldly view of it. The value of work is not judged by its wages, but by whether or not it is productive—does it provide for people’s needs, enrich the lives of others, or prepare you or others to do so?

Likewise, thankfulness will also help us embrace the ordinary. Consider Daniel. There is a fair chance he was castrated and he was enslaved in a foreign land. Prayer had only been temporarily banned and the penalty was a bad death, yet he prayed three times a day simply to thank God.

On their own receiving and consuming only create more craving, not happiness. Yet we can find joy in them if they are supported by thankfulness. Thankfulness takes our pleasure of receiving something beyond the mere gratification of the object to something greater. Thankfulness helps our pleasures transcend the senses by combining them with truth, goodness, beauty, dignity, and God’s glory. This is the opposite of entitlement. Entitlement is the idea that I deserve more than I have received. On the other hand thankfulness is the idea that I’ve been the recipient of grace and have received more than I deserve.

Yet we must not pursue thankfulness for the sake of enhanced gratification. Thankfulness will not bless us if misused as an idol. It will not draw our souls up to greater enjoyment if we try to drag it down to be consumed. Like all blessings, it must be done for the right reasons. When we do the right things for the right reasons the Bible makes it clear that God freely gives us the blessings that He has hidden in righteousness.

According to Ecclesiastes, ordinary life is a “burden.” Yet this burden can be the means by which God leads us into rest, reality, dignity, productivity, love, thankfulness, deepening pleasure, stable happiness, fascination at everything, and wonder for God.