We are two days into a brand new year, and you might still be in a football or food coma, but this is an excellent time of year to re-calibrate our lives and soul.
It’s also a good time to sit and ask yourself a few questions. Some of the questions that I ask myself include:
- Looking back to 2021 – what am I thankful for?
- What did God teach me?
- Where did He show His strength to m?
- Where was He silent?
- What questions do I have for Him?
- How did I praise Him?
- How did I thank Him?
- How am I a better person because of my journey?
When we look back over the previous year, we tend to focus on everything we got done. I completed this many goals, my net worth grew by this much, I got a promotion at work, my kids got good grades, and this list goes on and on.
However, thankfulness according to the dictionary, means:
- Aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful
- Expressive of gratitude1
With this definition in mind, our reflection turns from what we got done to what God did in us during the past year – it’s about perspective.
Maybe you are having a tough time praising God because of the heartache and heartbreak you feel. You don’t understand why everyone’s life is better than yours.
You cry out and yell at God going, I have been faithful, but nothing good seems to be happening in my life; when is it going to be my turn.
The God who created you sees the heartache and heartbreak you are experiencing. I don’t know why some of His most faithful servants experience some of the greatest anguish.
I don’t understand why those battling the toughest of diseases still manage to praise Him in their weakness. Their praise may be because they understand what some of us are still learning, God is faithful. He is not only in the good times but also in our pain.
Christ suffered on a cross so that we could live in eternity. He did this for you and me. The ultimate love gift for His children—the ultimate sacrifice.
Being thankful or grateful means we praise Him in the good times and in the times of pain. We recognize that He is walking beside us. He never left us. We most likely stepped aside because we couldn’t “feel” Him near us.
We mistook His silence for not walking with us when in reality, the times called for silence and walking.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says,
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
You might be thinking, yeah, that’s great for you, but my life is in the toilet; how do you expect me to praise God in all things?
We can’t on our own; we need God – it’s the only way. To understand this verse, we need to back up a few verses.
In an earlier part of the chapter, Paul encourages the believers to surround the church leaders and lift them in prayer for strength, wisdom, and guidance.
As he gets closer to verse 18, he says in verses 14 and 15,
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
Paul knew that the enemy would try to zap our strength and our joy, which would lead to hearts that were not thankful.
When we allow our hearts to become hard, we give the enemy a foothold in our lives. Paul warned the church of Thessalonica to be on the alert – not to let their guard down.
People are fallible, needing more grace, peace, and patience. You might have heard it said before that if you want patience, you pray and ask for it, but don’t be surprised when God puts you in situations to grow your patience.
Thankful hearts are repentant hearts. Grateful hearts are restored hearts. Thankful hearts are patient hearts. Thankful hearts leave space for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
Paul continues in verses 16 and 17,
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying.”
You might be listening to this and saying, yeah, thats impossible. There is no way I am being joyful in my circumstance. And my prayer life…well, it has been a long time since God and I had an honest-to-goodness chat.
We are human. We are not perfect. God understands this. He understands the deepest longings of our hearts. There is no place for you to hide that He cannot find you.
He will leave the 99 sheep that are good to search for the one lost sheep. Perhaps you're the one lost sheep today.
Maybe when you take stock of your 2021, all you see is unfulfilled dreams, heartbreak, anger, disappointment, fear, and struggle. You can’t seem to find any good in the past year.
Can I tell you something? I have been where you are at. Unfulfilled dreams…yep, been there.
Heartbreak…been there. Disappointment in myself and others…yep, been there.
Fear, struggle, anger…yes, yes, and yes. And it just wasn’t over the past year, it was a build-up of years.
But here’s what I want you to see, and why thankfulness is so important for you and for me.
When we least expect it, God is going to do something so incredible in your life that you won’t believe it. You will think it is a dream.
It may be an unfulfilled dream being fulfilled before your eyes. It may be the restoration of a relationship.
It may be the healing of wounds in your life. It may be the healing of your physical body.
But, God is working in the background. He’s working in the silence. He wants to know if we are willing to praise Him and thank Him even when the hard times out way the good times.
He wants to know if the longing in our hearts is not just a passing phase.
I don’t know your situation, but I can tell you that God is faithful. I saw it in my life over the past year, and more so over the past couple of months.
My heart was restored this past year by being in a community with other believers, and non-believers. My heart was restored by showing up every day at work and choosing to be a servant leader.
My heart was restored in giving more than in receiving.
Over time, my heart became content. It became joyful again. I became thankful, and God was right there every step of my journey. The silence began to slip away, and His voice became clear in my heart.
A heart of gratitude and thankfulness sometimes happens overnight, but more likely it is built over time.
My prayer for you today is simple. Ask God to restore joy and thankfulness to your weary heart. There is no magic formula, but just the persistent cry of a heart that wants a touch from the Savior.
You might be asking…how? Just ask. If the only words you can utter either aloud or in your spirit is Jesus. Say it. Cry out…Jesus.
Christians are not exempt from bad stuff. Plenty of Christians get cancer, COVID, take their own lives, have heartbreak, do the heartbreaking, say the wrong things, and so much more.
We are not perfect people, and we never will be until we see Jesus face-to-face upon our death. However, we are restored people.
Restored people thank God in the good times and the bad times.
Restored people desire for others to be restored.
Restored people see the beauty in the struggle as well as the outcome.
Restored people are thankful people.
Let me ask you, what are you thankful for in 2021? As you take a few minutes today or this week, keep a notecard handy or your phone, and jot down things you are thankful for in the past year.
Maybe it’s 20 things or maybe it's one or two. Write it down, and go back to it, and thank God for everything or everyone on your list.
See what God will do in your heart as you thank Him for what He did in you in 2021.
Let the words of Philippians 4:6 sift through your heart today:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
May you know the love of the Savior, and His love would rest on you today and always. May your hearts be overflowing with joy and thanksgiving as you enter 2022.
Lord, thank you for who you are, and what you did on the cross. Our hearts are expectant of what you will do in 2022, but before we dash into the new year too far, please remind us of your faithfulness in 2021 so we can praise and thank you. And for those whose hearts are hurting, breaking, unsure of how to be thankful, I ask you to meet them where they are at. To come alongside them, and may they feel your presence today in a new way. May they recognize it is you, and thank you for walking with them. Thank you for what you are doing in our lives, even if we do not see it. Amen!
- Thank You, Lord – Chris Tomlin (feat Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line) (song)
- Day One – Rufus (song)
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