“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.”
The turn of the New Year has become one of my favorite times of the year. It’s not because I’m stoked to see Pitbull’s New Year’s Revolution (how did he get invited back?), but rather because of a tradition my wife and I have kept over the years.
The Thankful List
Shortly after the turn of the calendar page, my bride and I sit down with lists we’ve compiled separately. Preparing the lists is a sweet time for us and we’re both usually anxious to share their contents with each other.
The first list is of five things we’re most thankful for from the past year. Narrowing down the list to five is a challenge, as is trying to figure out which one is the “best.” We usually take turns sharing a remembrance and work our way from #5 down to #1. After we’re both done, we end with a time of praising God for what He has done for us.
In our busy lives, we tend to forget the countless mercies that wash over our lives each day. Pausing to reflect upon some of the weightiest mercies serves our souls well. We’ve found that the process of preparing our lists challenges us to think back over the peaks and valleys of the past year and recount the heavenly treasures we’ve collected along the way. There’s an anticipation that builds in us as we look forward to encouraging each other with what God has done. During our sharing we are often reminded of things we’d forgotten and blessed to see how God used the same event to affect us in different ways.
The Hopeful List
The second list is of five things we’re each hoping for God to do in the year ahead. These lists usually cover broad things about our lives, our families, our ministries and our personal devotion to Christ. It’s tough to keep it to five, so we each usually have another list with a bunch of things we hope to see God do. When it’s time to share, we follow the same pattern of taking turns, counting down the list, and then prayerfully asking God to bring them each to pass.
Over the years that we’ve done our New Years reflecting, I’ve sensed that our trust in God has deepened. He has proven faithful, but usually in ways we hadn’t planned for.
We’ve seen Him carry us through miscarriages when we’d prayed for babies. We’ve seen Him close doors we’d hoped for while opening other doors that led into greener pastures.We’ve seen Him say yes to things we asked for, and often in ways we hadn’t even considered possible. When we look back on the passport of our lives we find that the pages are stamped by His perfectly faithful hand.
God’s past faithfulness strengthens our present hope to believe in His future faithfulness. We have full confidence that our God will answer every one of our prayers in ways that are better than we can ask them (Matthew 7:7-11). He knows what we don’t know and sees what we don’t see. We have come to delight in this truth, even when it’s tough.
During the year I have often gained encouragement by revisiting my journal that holds our lists. By breaking open old records and rereading ways God moved in years gone by, I find myself marveling at God’s wise ways. The longer we walk with God and reflect upon it, the more we find Joachim Neander’s words to be true “Hast thou not seen, How thy desires e’er have been Granted in what He ordaineth?”
Yes, yes we have.
The Christian life is to be lived with hearts that are filled with thanksgiving and hopefulness. These invaluable commodities are best cultivated by reflecting upon God’s faithfulness and praying for Him to show Himself faithful again. As the New Year approaches, we encourage you to take time to look back and look forward. When you do, you will find yourself surrounded by the reality that in Christ, God delights in showing you that He has been faithful and He will be again.
Happy New Year.