Looking back on 2021, it is easy to see that there were problems.
We were all hopeful when the vaccines rolled out that we could put COVID behind us and return to life as we knew it prior to the pandemic with all its restrictions and horrors. Many looked forward to a return to relative calm after the political turmoil of 2020. Unfortunately, the vaccines were not a panacea, and the political pot has heated almost to boiling over with name-calling and blame on both sides of the aisle. Truth and trust got lost along the way between the spin and counter-spin.
As 2022 is approaching, however, we’ve got more personal issues to address and we are making mental lists of shortcomings we need to tackle: weight, money, relationships, job. We pick at our dissatisfaction and plot our resolutions to fix these lives of ours once and for all! There must be a diet, a book, a magic potion—something—to transform these bodies, these lives, this world.
How about gratitude?
I know. It’s easier to find fault with ourselves and our circumstances than to look for reasons to be thankful.
Jesus’s brother James suggests we start our blessing list with just the things that have made life so challenging. He says we should, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2 NKJV).” As Christians, our desire should be to become more like Jesus and James tells us these problems we face give us the perfect opportunity to grow in grace and faith.
I could insert an eye roll here because, when I am honest, that is my true response to this Biblical admonition. But when I begin to thank God for His strength and help in times of trouble, I am reminded of His faithfulness.
I remember how He stayed with me all the dark, cold, lonely night during the Texas “Snow-mageddon” last February when I had no lights, no heat, no water, no cell phone, and no companion but Him. I am grateful that my friend, who went to the hospital with an oxygen level of 75, recovered from his bout of COVID. I wasn’t shut off from friends and family members during all the lockdowns as many were. I made it through financially. I’m sure you have your own list of ways God showed up for you last year.
Sometimes it’s harder to be grateful for the reasons you’ve penned those New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe it’s because we feel like these problems are of our own making. We got ourselves into these messes and we need to figure a way out.
The first step to thankfulness might just be to stop looking at ourselves and our lives as a mess, something that needs to be solved. Everyone makes mistakes—we’re not unique in that–but we get a chance to start over each day. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and He removes our sins, casting them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). We don’t have to gather up and repair all our failures. We have the wonderful blessing of repentance. We can simply express our regret, lay those burdens down, turn around and walk away from them toward new, better choices for today.
One of my favorite quotes that I came across this year is, “It’s not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.” Amen!