Written by Jonathan David Helser
Photographed by Sydnee Mela
In our first staff meeting of 2016, we took time to look back at the last year and remember all that God had done. We have an entire wall in our office that we have painted with chalk paint to use in meetings for planning and dreaming. We quickly filled up that wall with all the things we could recount. As the list grew bigger and bigger, I could feel joy and faith brimming up inside my heart like a rising tide. Honestly, I had come into the staff meeting feeling heavy because of some of the drama that had been going on in our lives over the last few months, but this simple act of remembering completely changed my countenance. There was so much joy and faith in the room from the simple exercise of remembering what God had done, that it launched us into an extraordinary time of prayer and thanksgiving before the Lord. As we were wrapping up the meeting I began to count how many of the items on the list were complete surprises. Almost half of the list were things that we never expected to happen last year. Ephesians 3:20 says that our God is“able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” As I stood looking back at what God had done, I realized that God’s goodness is so much bigger than my imagination. I can try my best to dream big, but He will always exceed what I can ask for. This caused me to wonder with excitement what that chalk wall is going to have written on it at the end of 2016.
Have you ever played tennis or ping pong with someone whose talent is far superior to yours? I have been humbled on several occasions by someone whose skills were much better than mine. You can try your hardest to send them your best shot across the net, but they always return it with a shot far greater than what you sent to them. I believe this is what true prayer looks like. We can try our best to send up our biggest prayer to God, but He is so extremely good that He will always return them to us with a response much greater than we could have even asked for.
We have had a beautiful rhythm with our children where we will stop in the middle of the busyness of life and all say five five things out loud we are thankful for. Every time we have done this, the atmosphere changes around us and hope overtakes us as a family. Many times we have asked the kids to do this when they are in a situation that seems very overwhelming to them. On these occasions, they will usually try to resist doing this at first, but when they finally give in and remember what they have to be thankful for, there is a significant change that happens. Recently, I was having a really rough day and it seemed like everything was going wrong. I has huffing and puffing around the house as we were rushing out the door with the kids. As I was anxiously backing out of the driveway, Cadence said from the back seat, “Dad, I think you should stop and say five things you are thankful for.” In that moment I was arrested with truth. The very principal I had taught my children, they were teaching to me. I stopped the car and seized the moment. As I began to speak out the things I was thankful for, I started to see clearly again. That moment of remembering changed everything.
Do you remember the Father and Son conversation in the movie The Lion King? The son of the King has forgotten who he is and he is wandering in the wilderness. But then he stops and looks into his reflection by the stream of water and this is what happens:
Ripples form, distorting Simba's reflection; they resolve into the face of his Father. A deep rumbling noise is heard.
Rafiki: You see, he lives in you.
Simba is awestruck. The wind picks up. In the air the huge image of Mufasa is forming from the clouds. He appears to be walking from the stars. The image is ghostly at first, but steadily gains color and coherence.
Mufasa: Simba . . .
Mufasa: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa: You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa: Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king.
As you stand at the turning of another year, I challenge you to take a moment to look back on all that God has done in this last year. Our hearts can become hard when we don’t stop to remember all that He has done. One of the enemy’s chief schemes is to keep us focused on what God is not doing, instead of focusing on what God has done and is doing. There is something about stopping and recognizing what God has done that softens our hearts and causes us to become ready for the promises ahead. Just like Simba at the stream, take a moment today and see the reflection of your Father’s goodness. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember all that God has done. That is one of the Holy Spirit’s job descriptions: to help us remember. Then get a journal and write down what He has done. Write down the big and the small things. When you finish the list, take some time to thank God out loud for what He has done. Get vocal with your thanksgiving. Remember that thanksgiving is a weapon. Stand up on a chair if you need to and shout out your thanksgiving. Let His presence wash over you and let His faith and hope be the wind in your sails.
Now with fresh perspective, begin to pray for your next year and call on all the promises God has in store for this next season. From this place of knowing that you are His child, boldly declare the goodness of God over the next season of your life. Go ahead and give God your best shot in prayer. Proclaim the prayers of a fearless child that knows that nothing is impossible with their Father. But please be prepared, for Habakkuk 1:5 declares what the Lord is going to send over into the courts of our lives in the days ahead: "Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”