Christmas this year will be tough for a lot of us.
Maybe you lost a loved one this past year or you haven’t spoken with your parents in a while. Or maybe you lost your job so there won’t be as many presents under the tree.
Pair that with the madness going on all around the world and days can become overwhelming.
If you’re like most of us, it seems like “bad days” are more common than good ones lately, making it hard to be grateful.
There is a story in the book of Exodus, where God miraculously frees the Israelites from slavery. It’s an incredible story. As the tribe is moving through the desert, God says, “I’m going to provide something for every one of you to eat every single day, all 2.5 million of you, but there is one stipulation, you can’t save any. I’ll give you more the next morning.”
And so that’s what God did. They would wake up in the morning and there would be food for them, spread out all over the ground.
He did it day after day after day.
For forty years.
And how did the Israelites respond? They complained. They said it wasn’t good enough. They saw their immediate situation as being a “bad situation” in the wilderness without understanding how it played into the big picture and thanking God for the miracle that He was providing them daily. And I think we can easily get to the same place as them if we, collectively, fail to see the big picture as well.
So are things really that bad right now? Is the world truly falling apart?
According to a study by Gapminder, in the last 25 years alone, world hunger has declined 40%, the child mortality rate has been cut in half, and extreme poverty has fallen by three-quarters.
Looking at this from a macro perspective, the world is trending positively. Wouldn’t you agree?
And in the Christian world there are some pretty incredible stats as well. According to the American Bible Institute, 9% of adult Americans read their Bible every day. If you break that down, 18 million adults in the U.S. read their Bible every day. Do you know how many people I know that are doing incredible things for the kingdom, but don’t read their Bible every day? A LOT.
Think about this, if you have a smartphone you have access to the Bible for free at all times and to literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of sermons.
The Jesus film, which is often one of the main things used for discipleship in hard to reach areas, has been translated into 1800 languages and streamed over 8.1 billion times since 1979.
There are more Bibles in print than ever and there are more Christians than ever.
Yes, there is so much to be upset about in the world.
But there is also so much to be amazed at.
So much wonder and awe all around, if you know where to look for it.
And I believe that’s our role as believers. To find God in everything, to find the good all around us and call it out. And share it with others. We are supposed to be spreading heaven on earth. Impacting the world in a positive way. When you grow in your faith this is who you should be becoming.
But how easy is it to forget about God in the midst of all the hustle of life, especially this time of year? We can be so busy that we miss out on the real reason for the season.
That’s why I think it’s so important for us to develop a discipline of gratitude in our lives. In ancient Judaism there was a major emphasis on gratitude. They would actually make it a point to thank God 100 times every single day from the moment they woke up until the moment they went to bed.
God, thank you for my eyes to see.
Thank you for my organs working properly.
Thank you for another breath in my lungs.
For the sunshine.
For the hands that made this meal.
They were short prayers to always keep God at the forefront of their mind, because they knew all good things came from Him.
And I think we have a lot to learn from this practice. How different would life be for us if we saw all of the good things God was doing instead of focusing on our circumstances?
No matter what may happen to us, good or bad, we can focus on the one who gives us strength to enjoy another day. It’s a big picture perspective. We know that God will work everything out for our good eventually.
The apostle Paul taught the Philippian church to, “fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
I don’t know about you, but I can surely think of some things that are lovely and excellent and worthy of praise. If we fill our minds with the things of God we don’t have room for negative thoughts. We aren’t entitled to anything. Everything is a gift.
Water is a gift.
My eyes are a gift.
Being saved is a gift.
Every breath with a ‘thank you’ attached to it is a gift.
There are countless things we can be grateful for if we only learn to open our eyes. We don’t need to recite 100 things that we are grateful for each day, but we can start with three.
Keep a journal of all the good things God is doing in your life and revisit your notes when times become difficult.
This holiday season will be tough for a lot of us. I want to encourage you to see God in the midst of the heartache and hold tight to the fact that the best is yet to come.
Love you all.