The start of this year has been a blur for me. I sat in silence trying to find God’s direction and plan for 2017 for the better half of January and February. I’ve found that in this process of waiting, I’m not coming up with much. There seemed to be no differentiation from last year to this next one. It all appears to be one continuous journey of trust, faith and leaning into whatever God is doing in this story I get to call life.
That sounds fine, but let me tell you, it has been quite difficult. I’m finding myself having to fight off anxiety because I feel as though something should be changing. I’m not much of a new year’s resolution girl, but if I were, 2017 would be the year that I would like some goals. After spending a year waiting and trusting in God, you come out of that season hoping for something else to look forward to. But that’s not how God is working in my life. This year looks a lot like the past one. My days seem the same, and my goals haven’t changed much.
And in the midst of that, the only thing I can feel God urging me to do is to be thankful. “ Be Thankful.” That’s it. No career change, not confirmation of Graduate School applications, no word for my family and future. Just thankfulness.
Let me tell you, thankfulness is a little harder when you don’t see anything to be thankful for. Yes, God is so good to me and has blown my mind over the past two years alone with his provision and faithfulness, but at the start of a new year we all look for a goal to set out for or a significant event to occur that we can look forward to. Thankfulness then is easy. “Thanks God for this being the year of our family growing.”
“Thank you God that this is the last year of school.”
“Thank you God that you’re calling me out into business for myself.”
They all light the ignition under us to stay motivated for the new year. But what happens when there’s nothing to seemingly look forward to? How do you start a new year full of gratitude when it seems like your circumstances haven’t changed.
Perspective plays a huge part in thankfulness. I could look at the plans set for the next year of my life and see nothing to be thankful for merely because I don’t see anything changing OR I could see God’s continuation of faithfulness that knows no time frame. I could choose thankfulness for something he started months ago. I could decide to rejoice over the promotion he gave me back in the summer and renew my thankfulness for the position by working harder for my staff. I could choose joy over the progress I see in my marriage. I could set real goals for a healthy life out of thankfulness for Him allowing me to see another year. When I complete an evaluation of my life, I find so much to be thankful for already. There is so much God has already done that I can choose to rejoice in.
But what happens when the new year meets you not with exciting change, but bad news. Lost jobs, wayward kids, anniversaries of traumatic events, loss; these are the moments when thankfulness is difficult. We have an obligation, even when bad news meets us at our doorstep, to still live a life of gratitude to God. Gratitude that appreciates his sovereignty in our lives even when we don’t understand His plan. Thankfulness for His presence, even when we don’t see how the situation will turn in our favor. We can choose to be thankful for the hope of the cross as an anchor when the waves of life seem to overwhelm us. The more I think about this year and the uncertainty I’m still facing, I can’t help but feel a pull toward thankfulness. Thankful He is God, and I am not. Thankful He will work out every detail. Thankful that even when I’m freaking out, He is present in every moment with me. Thankfulness becomes a reminder of his provision in the past – it calms your fears by reminding you of His goodness. His Goodness keeps you grounded, even in the most mundane seasons of life. So for those of us that this year has started off looking a lot like the last one, I challenge you to do the hard thing of remaining thankful. You’ll find that your love for God will evolve into a relationship based on who He is, not what He does for you. So if you’re like me and you’re still struggling to find the goal of this year, try becoming more thankful for what God has already begun in your life. Thankfulness will always be easy when you realize He’s always working things out for your good.