Yes, I am doing a gratitude post for Thanksgiving in October. It's something that I've been dwelling on the past week and felt led to post this instead of starting the apologetics series.
If you know me, you would know that my favorite things to do are to read and to create (draw, paint, embroidery, etc). I have a drawing prompt book that I have been working on over the past couple of years. Over the summer, I worked on it quite a bit, and one particular prompt stood out to me: "Draw a wish." Birthday wishes are something I take very seriously because I look at them as extra special prayers (as silly as that may sound), so I was surprised that I instantly knew what I wanted to draw. The one thing I look forward to in life, God willing, is Christmas with my own husband and children. I love Christmas with my family. We are the weirdos who start November 1, and are never tired of it by the time we reach December 25. We spend the time discussing Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas, drinking hot cocoa and watching (Hallmark--my fav) Christmas movies, baking and decorating Christmas cookies, and driving around to look at Christmas lights while listening to festive music. You get the point. Family is something that is important to me, so I can't wait to experience Christmas through the lens of a wife and even more so as a mom watching her kids experience the excitement of the season.
Lately, I guess I've also come to the point where I've recognized there is a chance that dream might not be God's will for my life. I can very well end up not married for the rest of my life or I may not end up becoming a mom. Ultimately, I don't know the answer and am not giving up on that dream yet and personally don't think that it's likely the case that I will have to, but I like to reflect and deep think a lot, lol. Nevertheless, it is something I think we as Christians should address at some point. What if our dream is not part of God's will?
The Scripture that came to mind when I was reflecting on this was Daniel 3:17-18 (ESV): "If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." The context of this verse comes from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In a spark notes version (I recommend reading for yourself), King Nebuchadnezzar created a golden statue of himself (extremely modest clearly), and demanded that all bow down to it. As believers in God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused since they only bow to God, so Nebuchadnezzar did the only rational thing one would do in his position and ordered them to burn in a fiery furnace. The three men's response is what all of our response should be to everything, particularly our dreams (though extremely different from persecution): God can but if not, His will be done and we will still serve Him no matter what.
The Christian life requires a lot of denying yourself (listen to this episode of the podcast for more on that), which includes surrendering. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego exhibited this behavior to the point of death. Although quite different from persecution, surrendering our dream to God is the best action we can take. Gratitude starts at surrender. We know from His Word that God is intentional and sovereign, and we can rest in that. Knowing that God will take care of everything, and that He knows how everything ends is something to be thankful for.
God is the very author of our life story. It's always been pretty cool to me that although we are just side characters in the main story about Jesus, God still cares enough about us to give each side character their own individualized story. A couple of years ago, I completed a novel (429 pages, not far off from my high school stories, lol), and although I ultimately chose not to publish it, I learned a lot from writing it. There's a lot of time and care that goes into creating a novel, most of my time was actually focused on story planning. I needed to make decisions for what my protagonist (her name was Evangeline for those wondering) was going to go through in order to fulfill the purpose of her individual plot and the grand scheme of the story. All of her character development included things not going the way she thought they would. Similarly, we go through sanctification, which is when we go through trials that leads to character development that will enables us to fulfill God's purpose for our individual stories, which in turn, is used as part of the main story: glorifying Christ (2 Tim. 2:21, John 17:19). God is so intentional and detailed that the life-long sanctification process we endure (we are always growing and learning) is filled with specific seasons that must happen to fulfill the story's purpose. Further, we are made in God's image and are called children of God through Christ, so we know as our loving Father, God is making all things work for our good, even when we can't see it (Romans 8:28). Since He is intentional in every chapter, sentence, and word of our stories, we can choose gratitude in our every single day, knowing that it is all part of the story and has reason. No season or day is ever wasted or for nothing.
Change and the unknown can be scary, especially when there's a dream you have. I used to fear both change and the unknown, but I've come to embrace it through gratitude of God knowing what will happen, and can write a better story for my life than I can. Moreover, God does not call us to fear. We have God's Word and the Holy Spirit to constantly remind us of His truth that we can depend on and to guide us through our journeys. We can find hope that whether our dream is delayed (Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us God's timing is best), is fulfilled in a different way than we thought, or doesn't happen at all that God is looking out for us and what does happen will lead to His glory. That should be our main goal after all (and is a theme of the book of Ephesians). We can embrace the unknown like my favorite literary character Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) and be thankful for the excitement of what is to come: "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?".
Find gratitude in all seasons and don't cling too hard to your dream, the timing of it, and/or the way it's going to happen. There's times I think my life is going a certain way, and now, I've come to the point that I embrace that I really don't know what the heck will happen, and that's okay. I'm thankful for the surprises and plot twists that God has given me because they always turn out better than I could have planned. If you're reading this and wondering if God brought something into your life or took something out of your life for a reason, the answer is "yes," that was on purpose. God has a reason and so intentional with what He's doing with your life, and that includes every singe person he brings in and takes out and every single place you're put in for whatever time God has you there. When you're feeling "stuck," you are really perfectly placed. Even that dream, big or small, God gave you is for a purpose, whether or not it comes true.
By: Bible and Hot Cocoa (IG: @bibleandhotcocoa)
Jules is the founder of Bible and Hot Cocoa. She is a law student with a passion for standing up for truth. In any free time, she loves to read, study theology, write, and draw or paint. Jules's favorite book of the Bible would have to be a tie among John, Psalms, and Romans (as of now), and her favorite figure besides Jesus is King David or Paul.