In the northern hemisphere, this is the season of harvest, a time when we reflect on how much we have to be thankful for. Some of us even have a national holiday of thanksgiving. Most often, the first thing that comes to mind is thankfulness for provisions such as food, shelter and safety. If we think a moment longer, we realise we are thankful for family, friends, our church community, and the freedom to worship.
But if I lived in Aleppo, Syria – which is all but destroyed – or in Sana’a, Yemen – where an air attack on a funeral recently killed more than 140 mourners – I could find it difficult to be thankful. Indeed, even in the safety of my warm home, I can find it a challenge to be thankful when I see the dark state of the world. So many people do not have the basic things that we take for granted. No food, no shelter, no safety, and no freedom of belief. And they all have family and friends who have been killed.
Nevertheless, God is at work. In the midst of destruction and death, people from the Arab world contact our response team daily with messages like this one from a Yazidi woman:
I believe in Christ because I believe that by drawing near to him I can draw near to God. The hard circumstances I have been through have made me search for God. I have chosen Christ as the way that I can get close to Him. I want to find peace and security.
I am reminded of the words written by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, where he points out that earthly pleasure is only a poor copy of the real thing.
In the midst of all that we enjoy, and the many blessings we rightly thank God for, let us take to heart Lewis’s words of exhortation:
I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and help others do the same.
As followers of Christ, our focus needs to be on the reality of our heavenly citizenship. In spite of all the evil we see around us, we can praise God that he is working in the hearts of men and women to bring them to himself. We can echo the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Praise God that as followers of Christ, we do not depend on earthly things for our thankfulness.
We thank God for your prayer and financial support for the work of Arab World Media. Pray that with the help of the Holy Spirit the ministry will continue to bring hope to the hopeless and opportunities of reconciliation to God for all Arab seekers of Muslim background.