When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, our country was in the middle of the Civil War. Loved ones were being lost daily on the battlefields in America and our country was being torn apart and full of uncertainty. It seemed there was little to be thankful for. Yet Lincoln saw the need to seek God and be thankful for His mercy and provision during the hard times, and ask for our country’s healing and prosperity in the future. It was a declaration of hope and trust in God that despite the turmoil in the present, God would faithfully work out His plan for the future.
Every year since, we’ve taken a day off to gather together in our homes and local communities for a special meal. We remember friendships, prosperities, and significant events that have shaped us. Some years the holidays are marked with gladness; other years they’re marked with heaviness and we may be going through painful experiences. But every year, whether we are able to acknowledge it or not, God has been faithful to us.
In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord tells the nation of Israel that He had good thoughts and plans for them. That may have come as a surprise, since they were being carried off into captivity and wouldn’t return back to their homeland for another 70 years. But it was crucial for them to know His intentions towards them, so they would not lose heart. So he tells them:
“When the seventy years are completed in Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
The word “future” in this text means more than just “things that haven’t happened yet”. God’s view of the future is like rowing a boat. Your journey has you looking back, just as you move forward, and your past is inextricably linked to your future. So when God gives a promise about prospering our future, He already sees your story and it’s as good as done. My husband likes to say, “God knows the end of your movie, and it going to be a good one!”
Take some time to look back and think of evidences of God’s good and gracious hand in your life, and remember that His past performance is a reliable indicator of His future one. Praise Him for what He’s done. Praise is lovely and always fitting. Has your life taken a turn and you’re stretched out of your comfort zone? Faith teaches that God is always good and always kind, past, present and future. We can be thankful then, even if we’re not glad. Our hearts can be grateful as we trust in His promise for a hope and a future.
So look back with gratitude and make thanksgiving a daily discipline. Look up, and see God as the Father from whom all blessings come. Praise Him with a song in your heart. And remember His promises kept in the “before” as you look forward with confidence in His promises for the “after”. Let’s take Paul seriously when he said, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
God knows the end of your movie, and it’s going to be a good one. -R