“When we start praising God for all the great things He has done, there’s little time left for whining or worrying. Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see.”
Liz Curtis Higgs
I typically bring one year to a close and usher in the next by reading through my journal(s) to remind myself not only of what God has done but also the prophetic, life-giving words He’s spoken over me in the past year. It’s so easy to forget unless I make it a point to remember. As part of Advent, I pondered Luke 1:25 when Elizabeth, being miraculously pregnant declared, “The Lord has done this for me.” Now as 2013 comes to a close, I’m looking back and re-discovering all that God has done and how He displayed His faithfulness to me.
On Christmas day the remnants of opened gifts were visible: bows stacked high in a bowl and wrapping paper torn or crunched up into balls on my living room floor. After all the gifts have been opened, delicious food devoured, guests are gone and life slows down, it’s time to bring out the stationery and write thank you notes. Likewise, at the end of 2013, it’s time to write a thank you note to the Creator and Giver of all good gifts, (Luke 11:11-13), thanking Him for all He’s given to us in 2013.
Parents love to shower gifts and blessings upon their children and it’s always nice to hear a grateful response. It’s not necessarily a need, but when our children have attitudes of gratitude, it blesses us. In the same way, because God delights to give His children gifts, He doesn’t need our thanks and praise, but He does want our hearts to be grateful. He instructs us to be thankful, (Colossians 3:15), as gratitude is an expression of our humility.
I Thessalonians 5:18 commands us “to give thanks in all circumstances.” It doesn’t say to have a grateful heart only when things are going well, but in ALL circumstances. We’re instructed to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise,” (Hebrews13:15). Our praise truly becomes a sacrifice when it’s difficult to see the good in trials and heartache. I’m challenged by Habakkuk’s response to calamity in Habakkuk 3:17-18. Even though he anticipated the disastrous results of a Babylonian invasion, he still chose to rejoice in the Lord.
When there’s nothing obvious to thank God for, be grateful for things you normally take for granted. In 1992 our family went on a short-term mission trip to Kijabe, Kenya. One day we visited an orphanage which had several handicapped children. Our wide-eyed-six-year-old son watched armless boys play catch with bean bags using only their feet. One little girl named Beth was able to knit with a special contraption attached to her stump of an arm. Fast forward six months. While in first grade, David was given the Thanksgiving assignment of writing and drawing what he was thankful for the most. His answer: arms and legs. Looking back over 2013, what have you taken for granted which you can give God thanks?
How has God encouraged your heart this past year? What fruit has He birthed through your life in 2013? What character trait did He perfect in you? How has your intimacy with God grown these past twelve months? Thank Him. Praise Him. Express your gratitude to Him. And then look forward to 2014 with anticipation, watching wide-eyed to see God “do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
I can’t think of any better way to close out this year and ring in the new, but by having thanksgiving in our hearts and praise upon our lips to God. Join me along with King David and declare, “Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14b)
“Our worlds reel unless we rejoice. A song of thanks steadies everything.”
1. Looking back on 2013, what has the Lord done for you?
2. Write God a thank you note, praising Him specifically for His obvious and not-so-obvious wonderful works in your life.