But let’s stop for a moment and take a closer look at this past year.
START FROM THANKSGIVING
To begin with, it’s important to choose to be thankful first, to “enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4 NLT). Before we go any further and let the 2016 memories drown us in sorrow, let’s get our hearts and our minds in the right place by choosing to be thankful. You don’t have to begin with being thankful for the crazy, for the bad, for the hurt that happened this year. But you always want to start from thanksgiving. So push through the difficult and infuriating memories of 2016, and remember some of the good that happened.
Now write it down. Gratitude as a fleeting thought is not nearly as powerful as gratitude written down in permanent ink as a tangible touchstone for your senses to encounter and remember. Take it a step further and engage your ears and your mouth in the process by saying what you’re thankful for out loud. Thank God for the good that you remember–for the moments of joy, the divine provision, the health, the breaths to live another day, the friends who hugged you, the song that came on when you needed it, or the food that was on your plate yesterday. Be thankful for the little and the big. Be thankful a lot.
Once you’ve given ample time for your heart to quiet down and your mind’s eye to focus on the good, you’ll be in a place to be able to fix your eyes back on the Author and Finisher of our faith. Isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about anyway–readjusting our focus and fixing our eyes on that miracle baby sent to change the trajectory of our destiny and send our story to an ending marked by redemption and freedom? Focus back on Him, and then remember . . .
GOD CANNOT BE SURPRISED
Our Author, Creator, Designer, All-Knowing God was not thrown off His throne at any point during this year. He was not caught off-guard. He was not baffled or confused. He was and still is CONSTANT. That’s one of my favorite characteristics of God–His consistency: “Jesus Christ is THE SAME yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NLT, emphasis mine).
Now, in that moment of stillness, of gratitude, pray this simple prayer:
“Lord God, I invite You to reveal to me where You were during the hard times this year. You felt far away, and I wanted to give up on You, but I believe that if You are the same yesterday, today, and forever, then You were with me then–before, during, and after that awful situation. Open my eyes to see it now. Thank You, God. Amen.”
Now, be still, and listen.
LOOK FOR THE FINGERPRINTS
If you give God a chance, He will remind you of little and big moments where He was preparing you, protecting you, and comforting you in the hard times. At the time, those moments may have seemed insignificant, so you may not have recognized the fingerprint that God left behind; but now as some time has passed and allowed you to begin healing, you may be able to see more significance in those “meaningless” details.
I’m reminded of the closing scene in Miracle on 34th Street. Doris’s daughter, Susie, is racing through the empty house she made them stop at on the side of the road, and she is squealing with delight because she believes Santa has given her the gift she most wanted–a home to grow up in. Doris, the mother, is frantic to quiet her daughter and pull her away from this stranger’s empty home. She’s consumed with her logic–they must get out of the house immediately because they do not own it, they do not know who owns it, they could break something, they could be in trouble because they do not have a realtor with them to let them see it, etc. She’s embarrassed that her daughter is behaving erratically; she’s afraid that they’ll get in trouble for trespassing.
But that moment that the camera focuses on the walking cane, the one that looks exactly like Kris Kringle’s, all the other fears fall away. The events of the past–Susie being upset that Santa didn’t get her the present she wanted, and the directions given by Kris to drive down this road to “avoid traffic” begin to hold more weight. And the present reality that Kris’s walking cane is in this house that Susie chose to run into, no longer appears to be just a coincidence. Doris realizes all of the sudden that Susie isn’t crazy for believing. Kris Kringle knew what he was doing all along. His fingerprints, as such, were unmistakably on this Christmas miracle.
REFLECTIONS AND REVELATIONS
As I’ve spent some time reflecting on 2016, moments I had forgotten began to pop back up in my memory reel. I was reminded of this time last year, when I was praying and seeking God about what my focus word should be for 2016, and I felt a deep foreboding that a tough year was ahead. There was a darkness and heaviness that I couldn’t shake, and I knew this wasn’t God’s way of telling me to begin dreading and fearing what was to come, but it was a time to suit up and prepare for battle. If 2016 were going to be hard, I needed to be ready. So I prayed and prayed. I dug into the Word, and I made my spiritual well being a priority.
It’s only now that I understand why I needed to prepare; I had no idea then what was ahead. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that that was the way I began 2016. It wasn’t until I was in a time of reflection that I was reminded of that premonition, and I felt my heart stirred as I realized that God knew. He was preparing me before the darkness struck.
I’m also beginning to recall other moments little and big–listening to a certain podcast, a message someone spoke at church, a conversation I had with a friend or family member, the way my schedule played out before and during the event, etc. So many seemingly insignificant details that I am now realizing had Divine Authorship stamped all over them. And in seeing God’s “cane” in the situation, I find a supernatural peace knowing He was there all along. There’s power in remembering. Often we focus on remembering the good times, the times of providence; and we draw encouragement from the memories that remind us that if He did it before, He can do it again. But there’s also encouragement and peace to be found in remembering the details–the little fingerprints of God’s present hand that seemed to be so far away when times were so tough.
WHAT ARE YOUR “CANE” MOMENTS?
It’s those “cane” moments that I believe can be revealed to you now if you begin with a time of thankfulness and then reflection. Little and big events before, during, and after the storm that are clear fingerprints of God’s hand in your situation. Take another look. You may have been too caught up in the moment to see those divine fingerprints, but I promise you they are there. And if you can quiet your heart and expose those still-fresh wounds to your Healer, He will begin to gently cover them with the balm of seeing where He was with you in all those hard times. No matter how dark the situation was, He was always right there with you.
God didn’t fall off His throne at any time in 2016. He was not surprised by any of the events that happened. (If He were surprised, He would not be all-knowing, so He wouldn’t be God.) Instead, He was preparing you all along, and He was holding you in the midst of the storm. Just like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; He came down and personally walked in the fire with you. Look around in those memories, and allow Him to show you the proof of His presence. Search carefully because our God is a gentleman, and often you will notice His presence strongest in the quietest of details:
But the LORD said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out.
1 Kings 19:9-13 NLT
“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 GW
So as you look back on 2016 and ahead to 2017, remember to begin with gratitude. Start from a spirit of thanksgiving. And then, ask God to reveal to you the details He orchestrated evidencing His presence carrying you through all along. And as you see His fingerprints proving His presence through the trial, take comfort knowing that you were never alone in 2016, and you will not be alone in 2017. He is constant–the same yesterday, today, and forever.
WHAT ARE THE DETAILS GOD IS REVEALING TO YOU THAT PROVE HE WAS WITH YOU THROUGH THOSE HARD TIMES? COMMENT BELOW. THEY COULD HELP SOMEONE ELSE AT THE TABLE RECOGNIZE PREVIOUSLY OVERLOOKED DETAILS OF THEIR OWN STORY. I KNOW IT TAKES COURAGE TO SHARE PERSONAL COMMENTS, BUT I BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT AND IT WILL AID IN THE HEALING PROCESS.