Q: What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A: First, how great my sins and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 2
The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us what our only comfort is in this sad life. Our only comfort is, of course, our faithful savior.
What do we need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort? The third point in answer two suggests that to live and die in the joy of this comfort one must know how to live a life of thankfulness.
To the Reformed, gratitude is the substance of the Christian life. Jesus is the only perfect and complete savior. Thankfulness is all that we can offer. The law convicts sinners. Jesus saves sinners. The Holy Spirit sanctifies sinners. Praise be to God.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it isn’t even close. Undoubtedly, our corporate expressions of gratitude are the healthiest part of the day. Gratitude pulls the soul out of the unending depths of introspection and self-pity. Who can add a single hour to his span of life?
Our bodies are fragile. They literally are dying with each passing second. Our wills are fragile. We see the good so clearly in front of us, but so often we can’t bring ourselves to do it. We pick the coldest can and the biggest turkey leg for ourselves time after time. Who can let the dead bury their own dead? Who can put his hand to the plow without looking back?
I don’t deserve the things of God. I don’t even deserve the good things of this world. I certainly didn’t give birth to myself or fill my infantile lungs with breath. I am the clay.
I don’t deserve my wife. I don’t deserve her care, her love, her time, or her cauliflower stir fry. That she should look to me for anything other than cautionary tales is a mystery.
I don’t deserve my family. I have not come to their aid. I have chosen to support my own activities while neglecting their fellowship. I have spoken unkind words against carnal and spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.
I don’t deserve my job. I seek my own gain, harbor jealousies, and defend my meager contributions. I don’t sweat for my food.
I don’t deserve my house. I didn’t build it with my hands or even have the capital to purchase it. I rely on the trust of others to support my comfortable abode. If circumstances change, I could lose it in a second.
That my life has any order at all is a gift of providence. How suddenly the puzzle can fall apart. How pathetic are my efforts to hold the pieces together.
Gratitude sparks worship. Thanksgiving causes us to look for the source of all our blessings. A life of gratitude, that is the fruit of our faith, combined with true worship is our thank offering.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.James 1: 27 ESV