As we begin 2019, it’s time for our annual New Year’s tradition: remembering everything wrong with the previous year. At least that seems to be the trend as of late. It seems that with the turning of the calendar page, most people welcome the new year, not because of any hopeful optimism, but because they are looking forward to the passing of a year filled with angst and turmoil (which I guess you could say is a form of hopeful optimism). As someone who works with teenagers, I know that criticism is not a new trend, but I can’t help but feel that we’ve become more inclined to notice the fault in something rather than the good.
I’m not saying that being critical is always a bad thing. When making a purchase or deciding on whether or not to try a new restaurant, reading online reviews can help us to make an informed decision. We should even welcome criticism, if it is given in a constructive manner intended to help us improve ourselves. The danger lies in always finding the negative aspect of every situation, while overlooking the positives.
First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” What if we decided that 2019 was going to be the year of being thankful in all circumstances? What if we started living out the words of the famous hymn, “Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done.” Take notice that the command Paul the Thessalonians was, “in everything give thanks.” That means that we are able to look for God’s goodness, His blessings toward us, in every circumstance. We would then always be able to say, “Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your power can be shown forth in this difficult situation and thank you that you allowed it to happen for some good reason.”
Developing this mentality is not an easy task. It does require trust in Christ and perseverance in faith but there are also little things we can be doing to cultivate a thankful attitude and a recognition of blessings in our lives. Think about how often someone asks you, “How are you doing,” or “How’s it going?” What is your typical response? Are you the type that unloads all your problems on the unsuspecting soul who was asking an innocuous question? Are you the type to respond “fine” while really going over in your mind all the things that have been going wrong lately? What if we started responding to that question by saying, “I am blessed,” and then actually listing (whether verbally or in your mind) some of the ways in which you recognize you are blessed. We could start with something small, realizing we’re blessed because we had a meal that day, because we had a choice of things to wear, because we had a friend that cared about us enough to ask how we were doing. By focusing on the things that God has blessed us with, we can then turn around and thank him. Before long, we’ve developed a habit of thankfulness.
I don’t doubt that we all had some trials this past year, and it is not my intention to trivialize any suffering that someone may have gone through. In giving thanks and even in counting our blessings, there can still be sadness, mourning and pain. By giving thanks in everything, we can show that our faith is in a God who is bigger than our circumstances and whose blessings are too numerous to count. It shows that we believe that God knows best. It shows that we believe that He is involved in all things, and that He will make something good to come out of it all.
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Soli deo gloria,