November is traditionally the time of year people step-back from the daily grind to count their blessings and give thanks to God. In light of that, I am kicking off a three-week series called, “Dare to be Thankful for Your Past, Present and Future.” I picked these 3 areas because each one has its challenges, but also being intentionally thankful for the past, present and future will bring more joy and peace to today.
“I remember the days of old. I ponder on your great works. I think about what you have done.” Psalm 143:5
What feeling emerge when you think of your past? Do feelings of thankfulness and gratefulness well-up? Or was your childhood difficult which led to a challenged adulthood and thankfulness isn’t your first response? Maybe bad decisions or past mistakes overshadow the many blessings…maybe there just weren’t any good things to be thankful for. Regardless of the circumstances let’s put on our pirate hats and search for treasures…gold nuggets (great or small) of thankfulness in our past.
What kind of impact has your past had on today? My past has dictated too much of my present life. When I think about the past…sadness, anger and confusion often take front and center. The pain of the past is in the driver’s seat of my current life steering my emotions, reactions and thoughts.
For years I struggled with the Bible verse, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ” I Thessalonians 5:18. How could I be thankful for a broken past?
Can I be thankful for a past I resented? There is no easy answer, but after years of counseling and dissecting the past, I have come to see the hidden blessings. These hidden blessings give me the opportunity to be thankful and see the good that came out of a dysfunctional situation.
Whether you were a Christian or not, God was present in your past. He was there when you were conceived and formed in your mother’s womb. In your saddest, most painful moments- He was there. During the biggest victories or accomplishments- He was there too.
Knowing I was never alone and that God has always been there has been a great comfort to me. He understands me like no other…He sympathizes with me beyond any human understanding. I am known. I am seen. Thank you, God.
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment of my life was laid out before a single day passed.” Psalm 139:16
Every whisper of a prayer or shout out to God has been heard. Some prayers were answered right away, some answered differently than expected, some answered though a journey and some have yet to be answered. By looking back and thanking God for answered prayers it will strengthen your faith today.
I wasn’t a Christian until age 23. But even as a non-Christian child I uttered prayers of deliverance from the situation. God heard and He came. I accepted the Lord in my heart and life began to change. Not every prayer has been answered to my exact request…but God is good and He knows what I need more than I do. Thank you, God.
“When I pray you answer me; you encourage me by giving me the strength I need.” Psalm 138:3
Just like a treasure chest is full of different jewels, coins and gold…blessings come in many shapes and sizes. Look for the people, situations or gifts that made a difference in your life. Thanking God and acknowledging Him for His goodness will strengthen your hope and faith for the future.
At first this was a challenge. I had to search for blessings because I felt mostly sadness towards my past. But God has revealed little things like His protection when I could have been seriously injured or His provision for food and clothing. And even His provision in creating me with a stubborn attitude because it aided me in not repeating what I learned in my childhood.
“Give thanks to Him who led his people through the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 136:16
There might be a specific person or people who you are thankful for. What about them made you especially thankful? Did this person believe in you when no one else did? Did he or she spend time teaching and training you…pouring into your life? Maybe lead you to Christ? Recall a special person and let those memories fill your mind. Express your gratitude towards him/her by saying, “Thank you!”
For me, it was my grandmother. Grandma cooked amazing meals and cared for me when I was sick. She believed I could do anything, and though she has gone on to be with the Lord, her encouragement still lives in my heart. I will never forget her belief in me.
“How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy in the presence of the God.” I Thessalonians 3:9
The past is a great teacher. A wise person will learn from past mistakes and sin, in order not to repeat it. There is great value for today in learning these lessons. Be thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn. Look at it as an opportunity for today not a failure of the past.
Some of my past mistakes have haunted me. I spent too much time replaying them and wondering what life would be like if I had made a better choice. However, I have come to a place of peace by realizing I did the best I could at that time in my life, and that I can learn from my mistakes and make better choices today.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Past experiences (good or bad) provide wisdom and guidance to those younger than you. People need older, more experienced people share about their life, their mistakes and what matters most. Be thankful, no matter what your past was like, that you can have a positive effect on the future generations.
From the time I was very young I knew I wanted better for my kids. My past became a living education. Possessing such strong convictions gave me tools to teach my own children. And to mentor and help younger women who have a broken past. I thank God that my past pain can be used for positive encouragement and instruction to help others.
“Your greatest ministry will likely come out of your greatest misery.” Rick Warren
The only way to truly have empathy for someone is to have gone through what that person is going through. To intimately know what it feels like to be in their shoes. Taking a broken past and using it to connect to a broken world is world changing. Having the ability to tenderly care for another person is literally God’s love being lived out though YOU!
Empathy is a great gift. Being able to connect with another person and come alongside them brings purpose and meaning to a broken and painful past. Knowing God can use my past to bring hope and healing is reason enough to be thankful for all things. I can have grace and mercy for those in my life.
“This High Priest of ours understands our weakness, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So, let us come boldly to the throne of our Gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Looking back on the past can provide an avenue for confession. Admitting your sin and coming clean is a chance to start new. There may be hidden, unconfessed past sin that is causing problems in the here and now. Be thankful that your past can be a catalyst to confession.
I am guilty of hiding past sin in my heart thinking that because it was long ago it doesn’t matter anymore. However, I have experienced first-hand the effects of hidden past sin on my self-esteem and self-worth. Confession has been the greatest tool to overcoming this…confession before God and to a trusted friend.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong doing.” 1 John 1:9
Today, take a few minutes to look at each of the 8 Thankful Treasures: God’s Omni-Presence, Answered Prayer, Past Blessings, Specific People in Your Past, Lessons Learned, Teaching Points, Empathy for People Today and Catalyst for Confession, and jot down your responses. If your past was especially difficult ask God to help you be thankful for something. Keep your responses because next week we are going to look at Daring to Be Thankful for the Present, and then wrap it up with Daring to Be Thankful for the Future.
Enjoy the Holiday Season and Dare to be Thankful!
Sincerely with Hugs,