I typed three words into Google’s search bar, and the first result was to “fail to properly appreciate someone or something, especially as a result of overfamiliarity”. To “take for granted” is a common phrase, but this definition is striking to me because it poignantly captures the negative effect of such a subtle habit.
As harmful as it is, I assume all of us have taken things for granted at one time or another. By way of example, heat, electricity, and running water are a few conveniences many of us underappreciate due to overfamiliarity. Left unchecked, this mindset leads to a lack of gratitude and a sense of entitlement.
The opposite attitude was embodied by David when he penned Psalm 124. In this short psalm, he reflected on what would have become of Israel “if the Lord had not been on [their] side”. He concluded that, apart from the Lord’s intervention, Israel would have been swallowed alive by their enemies.
After I read these words recently, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Until then, it hadn’t crossed my mind to deliberately consider what my life would be like apart from the Lord. Based on David’s example and the definition above, though, it seems that a healthy contemplation of the absence of a particular person or thing is central to cultivating a deeper appreciation for it. Simply put, one way to avoid taking the Lord for granted is to imagine what life would be like without Him.
So let’s try it.
If not for the Lord, we would still be dead in our sin.
If not for the Lord, Satan, sin, and death would have the final word.
If not for the Lord, the state of our world would paralyze us with fear.
If not for the Lord, we wouldn’t know the security of perfect love.
If not for the Lord, suffering would be intolerable.
If not for the Lord, true peace would be nonexistent.
If not for the Lord, there would be no hope in or beyond this life.
Just writing these few phrases has increased my mindfulness of and gratitude for all the Lord has done on my behalf. But I want to get even more specific, because the more precisely we pinpoint God’s involvement in our lives, the less likely we’ll be to take Him for granted.
If not for the Lord, life’s difficulties would define me. I would evaluate my circumstances based on my feelings and desires. I would allow my identity to be shaped by other people’s opinions. Wealth, status, and success would be the most important things in the world to me. My own happiness would be my sole motivator.
Hypothetically subtracting God from our lives is one of the quickest ways to be reminded of the countless blessings He’s added to it. So I’m curious about you. What state would you be in if not for the Lord?
Thanks to God’s unfathomable grace, we’ll never know just how bad it could have been.