Recently we've heard the exhortation that spiritual blindness comes when we don't keep a clear conscience (Matthew 6:22-23).
I was also meditating on something else that the Bible says causes spiritual blindness:
Romans 1:21 says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
The reason in a lot of cases that a person can have a darkened heart and miss God altogether is: plain and simple ingratitude. "They did not honor Him as God or give thanks."
God gave us a million things - life, breathe, everything needed - and most of all His own Son. But the temptation to overlook all of this and focus on the one or two earthly circumstances which are difficult, or focus on some earthly thing which He hasn’t given us can be very strong, even for a Christian. We know how foolish it is - it's like a person discovering they have a winning a $1 million lottery ticket and then getting angry that he got a parking ticket while cashing it, and being downcast for a week over that. It doesn't make sense (logically)! But the temptation is often very real, and is stronger the further we are from walking in closeness with the Lord.
We often talk about the sin of complaining - complaining about what is going wrong, or what God hasn't done or the problems He has left in our life. If we meditate on the seriousness of this sin, we can take it more seriously the next time we are tempted. We can compare it to a beggar who is saved by a man who pushes him out of the way of an oncoming bus. Imagine this man gets hit by the bus instead of the beggar, and he saves the beggars life. Now imagine this beggar instead of thanking and helping this hero who saved him, instead he starts asking the man who saved him (who is now laying on the ground with wounds) if he can give him some money. And then when the man on the ground stays quiet, the beggar scoffs, complains and walks off in frustration.
This ungrateful beggar is a picture of how ugly it looks like to be lacking in gratitude toward the Lord when He doesn’t do some small earthly thing for us which we ask for. He gave us everything – everything eternal that matters, that is:
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
2 Peter 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
God granted to us everything (everything good for our eternal life with Him, that is - He hasn’t held back even one thing). And not only that – but it’s really a wonder to see that what He has withheld is also just as much a blessing from love as what He’s given!
I believe with all my heart, if the Lord removed all pressures, and granted all the desires I've had which I thought were good (perhaps even granted many of my past foolish prayers), it’s very possible that I may not even be following Him today. Praise God for answered prayers, and praise God for Unanswered prayers!
At the end we will all say “He did all things well” – that’s a very common thing to confess this after the Lord does something amazing (Mark 7:37). But to confess this with a quiet trust in the Lord before we can explain, and before everything makes sense – that’s faith, and it's also a great act of humility. Because it's saying "Lord, I don't know - but you do. You're in charge, and that's the way it should be."
And it says here in Romans 1 that to be ungrateful for what He has already done for us is such a grave sin that the Bible says - our heart will start to become darkened. It will lead to greater and greater foolishness and drifting from the Lord. It says what God allowed to happen to some after they had such ingratitude to the Lord:
Romans 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind
Their ungrateful heart caused them to have a ‘depraved mind.’
I used to wonder what 1 Cor 16:22 meant: "If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha." It sounds extreme, but I believe it’s saying how terrible it is to think that a person wouldn't love the One who gave everything for them. It's inhuman. An animal could easily walk off after a person saved it’s life, and never give thanks. But it’s hard to imagine any human would ever do that. It's more living like an animal, to be ungrateful to the one who gave their life for you. A human should never live at such a low level of life. But sadly, many people live like animals in this regard.
I’ve seen that at times when I focus on my struggles instead of looking to Jesus and all I have in Him, I can start to lose that gratitude. To focus on the weight of my personal struggles has sometimes been the thing which has made me sink the lowest, driven me into the ground under the weight.
But one thing that’s helped me in the hardest times is to literally ‘Count my blessings’ – to think of all the Lord has already done for me, and then also confess and believe in faith that whatever is weighing me down is also worthy of blessing and praising the Lord for. “Lord thank you for the last time you pulled me out of this tight spot – I look at that and know you’ll do it again. Lord thank you for this difficult person, it’s helping refine me and causing me to kill my wretched pride and ego. Lord thank you for this financial struggle, it’s helping me to lean on you more than ever in faith – I never want to trust in man or in money.”
I sometimes use my imagination to think of some things which the Lord will do, how He may work it for my eternal good and for His glory. I love that thought, that our short, light sufferings now which we are faithful in can be glorifying God for all of eternity (2 Cor 4:17). I see Abraham did that with the sacrifice of Isaac (Imagining God would literally raise him from the dead – Heb 11:19), and it was credited to Abraham as faith and righteousness! I wonder if Jesus while He was having His hands nailed to the cross would have imagined how He would be bearing those scars forever, and taken solace that – “These are my wounds of love I can carry for eternity.”
May the Lord open our eyes to areas where we've been ungrateful, or ever felt deserving of anything from the One who's already given us EVERYTHING in Christ (Eph 1:3). And to see that even that which He has withheld – is actually the very giving of a gift itself too.