If we were sitting at my kitchen table discussing the upcoming year, what might we talk about? Probably our plans, a few resolutions, some goals. Weight loss, exercise, saving money or spending it more wisely. Spending more time with family, eating healthier, more discipline with time. And the list goes on...
I think we'd agree that we all hope to live a happy life, have a fruitful year, meet our goals and live a life full of wonderful adventures and have very little heartache or trouble. I don't think you'd say to me, over a steaming cup of coffee, 'I really hope this year is the hardest year of my life, full of troubles and pain.' !!
Most of us would hands down agree that we want an easy life. Yes, I would.
It was in this last year that God showed me that my 'Yes I would' answer to wanting happiness in life, was the reason I was getting so tripped up by the storms of life. Every time a storm came upon me, I would be angry, frustrated, sometimes appalled that God would make me have to go through the difficulty. This, in turn, would result in me pushing God away (at least in my mind), angry that He would allow such pain and hardship. I felt sorry for myself. My prayers were angry and desperate. I wanted people to lament with me. I had a massive expectation on God that was rooted in my lack of understanding of God's Word - Jesus tells us 'You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world." (John 16:33)
God then began to teach me about giving thanks. I read Ann Voscamp's book 1,000 Gifts and learned that when I gave thanks in (the midst of) every and all circumstances and events, big and small, from the beauty of a red robin and the smallness of an inch worm to the loss of a job and the sickness of my children, God's great love abounded in my heart, comforted me, rescued me, hid me in the shelter of His wings. Giving thanks in everything put eyes on my faith so that I could see clearly that God is good in every single detail of the path of my life. Every. Single. Detail.
God is good and His plans for our good (Rom. 8:28) are wrapped into all those day to day details in ways that we will not understand or fathom (Isaiah 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways." This is the Lord's declaration. "For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts") And when we recognize this, we can truly live out Philippians 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in everything, thorough prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" learning just as Paul did "for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (Phil. 4:10)
Psalm 106:1 "Hallelujah! Give thanks to the Lord, for His is good; His faithful love endures forever."
Can I just tell you that as we begin to unwrap the year 2014, day by day, we will encounter troubles. Jesus told us to expect them.They will come. Get prepared: pack a storm preparation kit. Inside, put thankfulness, prayer, God's Truths, rejoicing, trust. Then, as the new year begins to unfold and the storm clouds brew, you are prepared! And you and I can stand courageous as Jesus told us too! He has overcome the world!