Return and Reconciliation

“We will thank You and declare Your praise for our lives, which are entrusted into Your hand; for our souls, which are placed in Your Charge; for Your miracles which are with us every day; and for Your wonders and favors at all times, evening, morning, and midday.”

Thanksgiving blessing
Shaharit for Shabbat
Koren Siddur, pg 488

I once heard it said, “Coincidences are miracles in which God prefers to remain anonymous.”

If we were to carefully scrutinize everything that occurs in our daily lives, we would find many such “coincidences.” Sometimes we may not be aware of the significance of a particular occurrence until much later, when we may have forgotten how or why we think it occurred, and so we just write it off to chance. Other times, we notice that things seem to “just happen at the right time.” And in some instances, the likelihood of the desired occurrence being chance is statistically so remote that it may penetrate the skepticism of even the most confirmed non-believer.

Why don’t people see the Divine hand in so many things? Could it be that being aware would require them to be thankful to God, because it is unconscionable to be an ingrate (and if one has difficulty with feelings of gratitude, it is simply easier to deny the awareness of the Divine favor)? Could it be that the awareness that God is looking after them would obligate them to live according to the Divine will, and since that might entail some inconveniences and restrictions on their behavior, it is more comfortable to believe that “God does not care”?

Psychologists have great respect for the human capacity to rationalize, to convince oneself of the absolute truth of whatever it is that one wishes to believe or not believe. How much wiser we would be to divest ourselves of such self-deceptions.

Today I shall…

scrutinize my daily happenings with an alertness to how many favorable “coincidences” have occurred in my life.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Elul 8”

You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Psalm 145:16 (ESV)

It’s not just the miracles, signs, and wonders for which we should thank and praise God, but for every good thing we experience in our lives. As Rabbi Twerski said, those events we consider “coincidences” are most likely also from God, and even if they aren’t, we should thank Him anyway, for the very fact that we are alive to encounter all goodness.

Of course, we’re also alive to encounter “all badness,” too.

I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things. –Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)

The word that the ESV translates as “calamity” is translated as “evil” by the King James Bible, the American Standard Version, and the Barby Bible Translation, to name a few. Not a comforting thought, but if God is to be considered sovereign over all, then He must create all.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Paul doesn’t say to give thanks to God only when things go your way and God gives you what you want and need, does he? That’s the tough part. We are always ready to thank God when good things happen, but true faith and trust thanks in all circumstances, good and bad alike. Being thankful doesn’t happen just when you’re happy and satisfied, but at all times, because good and bad both come from God, in all circumstances, God is with us.

I know. I must be crazy, right? I mean, who can thank God when disaster and calamity strike? Only a saint or a fool (or are they the same thing?). Not too long ago, I talked about trusting God, not just in good times or bad, but in uncertain times; during events or when pondering mysteries that you aren’t very sure about. Who is God? What is salvation? When we pray, is God listening?

Rabbi Twerski recommends “scrutinizing your daily happenings with an alertness to how many favorable “coincidences” have occurred in your lives.” I don’t necessarily disagree with this practice because it helps make us aware of all of the good God does for us that we take for granted, but that’s not the end of it. In every bad time, in every time of uncertainty or doubt, even when doubting God, give thanks that He remains with you and with me. Give thanks that, unlike a human being, He won’t abandon us or doubt us, just because we sometimes doubt Him and at least temporarily, withdraw from His presence. He is not like a person. He’s not like us, and for that, we should be infinitely grateful.

It is ridiculous how some people are concerned about trivial aspects of “honor.” For example, a person may refuse to visit a friend or relative, because they feel the other person should come to him first. Or they become angry if they visit someone and that person does not repay the visit.

Focus on being practical. If you would like to speak to someone, what does it matter if he did not come to you first?

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Today’s Daily Lift #559

As long as we’re thanking God for his faithfulness when we are faithless, we might as well take the next step and try to emulate Him just a bit. If there is a friend or family member who we have refused to speak with or visit because of our pride or a matter of “honor,” consider how God is not affected by how we’ve offended Him and remains with us, even in our most foul and dark moods. In the month of Elul, observant Jews make an effort to repair damaged friendships and to overcome the emotional barriers that have caused these rifts.

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

-Lady Dorothy Nevill, British writer

You can do this, too. You can extend yourself in humility and in gratefulness to God and approach an estranged loved one. Remember, God is always waiting for you to return to Him as well.

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