Today’s post comes to us by guest contributor Chris Furnell. Thank you, Chris, for giving us reason to pause and reflect not just on what gifts we’ve been given and blessings God has sent our way but on the entire practice of gratitude, too.
When I sit down to contemplate what gifts God has given me in 2021, the first thing I do is try to remember any big things that happened. Any big events. Anything that seems out of the ordinary or over the top.
There certainly are those things… Early in 2021, my mother was diagnosed with a relatively rare form of cancer. We were all worried. We all prayed. The doctors caught it really early, which was a gift from God. Because of how early it was caught, they were able to aggressively treat it, and as of October, the treatments and a surgery resulted with her being cancer-free and given a clean bill of health. Another gift from God.
Through different events in my life this year and different things God had been doing in my heart, He prompted me to reach out to several people who, for various reasons and in various circles of mine, I had fallen out of fellowship with. Not all of these efforts resulted in relationships being restored to 100% of what they used to be, but several of them got close. The wholeness I felt and the reconciliation which took place through the power of forgiveness were gifts from God.
In 2021 I celebrated one year in my current position at work. In my role, I have a considerable level of influence on shaping the culture and environment of our workplace. Reflecting on my one-year anniversary, I was happy to note the positive difference that exists between our culture now and what it was when I first took this job. There is much more peace, happiness, and joy among the employees. There is much less division, hostility, and conflict. I didn’t do anything extraordinary to achieve these results. I simply lived by the “golden rule” and expected everyone else to do the same. The positive environment that exists from simply behaving the way Jesus told us to is a gift from God.
However, as I sit here and try to pore over my memories of the year behind me in order to find those things I consider to be gifts from God, I feel a realization coming over me, growing from a faint whisper in my ear to a loud ringing, that as I am looking for those “big” things to credit God for it reveals that I don’t immediately think of the “small” things as gifts from Him.
If the “big” things are what I consider to be His gifts, does that mean I assume, even subconsciously, that everything else that happened – the “small” things- are things I deserved? Things I’m just owed for being alive? Do I really take that much for granted? Yes, my mom’s cancer being healed was a gift from God- but so was every single Saturday morning that my 7-year-old daughter climbed up next to me on the couch to cuddle while she tried to wake up. Yes, my job is a gift from God- but so is every breath I have taken every day of this year. Yes, forgiveness, reconciliation, and relationships are amazing gifts from God- but so are the wisdom and perspective gained from one more year of life and the experiences He has allowed me to have and even intentionally brought my way.
Why am I so prone to expect God to be in the wind, earthquake, and fire that I continually miss the fact He is in the small things in my life as well- and after He gave us a Bible story that teaches that very point?? Alas, I am a slow learner.
2021 has indeed been a year full of good gifts from a good Father. One gift I will try to make better use of is the gift of perspective that He has graciously given to me and to all who were made in His image. God is a God of mountain tops and of valleys. He is God of the whirlwind and of the still small voice. He is the God of Kings and the God of shepherds- of warriors and of poets. He is a giver of big gifts and of small gifts. In truth, the value of the gift- the magic of it- doesn’t actually lie in the gift itself.
Whether big or small, what should stand out to me- what should absolutely floor me- is that the God of the universe has thought of me at all. That a good, just, and holy God still chooses to love me in spite of my cowardice and apathy, in spite of my pride and arrogance, in spite of my hard heart and self-worship, and even in spite of my taking Him for granted is the greatest gift of all. And He gives me that gift afresh every single day.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” -Lamentations Chapter 3