“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
If I’m being honest right now, God’s plans don’t look that good. Maybe you’re reading this right now because you feel that way too.
This past year has been tough, miserable actually. Financial hardship, mental health struggles, and distance from my family and friends has made me feel pretty hopeless.
I’ve been a believer almost my entire life and I know the truths the Bible teaches. That in life we will face many trials and sorrows but that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). I know suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope (Romans 5:3-4). That our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
But even with these truths echoing in my mind I find myself in a place of sadness. I am simply exhausted of reminding myself of God’s goodness in the middle of overwhelming debt, in the middle of emotional turmoil, and despite loneliness.
One thing I do know for sure though is God did not intend for life to be kicking my butt this hard. Something is off. And I’ve decided I know what that is.
It’s my gratitude.
My focus is entirely on my problems. And I’m not blaming you if your eyes are fixed on your problems too. It’s pretty easy to do when those problems are frustrating, painful, and overwhelming. But my eyes are made to be focused on Jesus. And so are yours.
It reminds me of the story in Matthew 14 where Jesus calls Peter to him on the water. We know when Peter’s eyes were on Jesus he was able to walk on the water and when he took his eyes off Jesus he sank. But have you ever paused to realize that when Peter’s eyes were on Jesus the storm was still raging.
The waves were still high, the wind was still loud, the rain was still heavy, the lightning still lit up the sky and the thunder still roared. But as long as Peter’s eyes were on Jesus, all of those issues, were non-issues.
When I’m going to church, reading my Bible, and speaking biblical truth over myself I still get frustrated that life remains difficult as if those things are supposed to be magical bandaids to life’s troubles. But the storms of life don’t cease simply because I remember an applicable Bible verse. Knowing the truth and keeping your eyes on Jesus are two very different things. When Peter’s eyes were on Jesus he didn’t see the waves, hear the wind, or worry about sinking. And when I look at Jesus in the middle of life’s storms I know he’s near. I feel peace, I feel safe, I no longer feel alone. I recognize the good plans he has given me for my future hope and all I can say is “thank you.”
When my eyes are on Jesus my prayers shift from “God, send help for my finances” to “God, thank you in advance for the day I’ll buy a home to raise a family in.” My prayers shift from “God, please calm my anxiety and send away this demon of depression” to “God, thank you that I have perfect peace and unconditional joy through Jesus.” My prayers shift from “God, why am I so lonely?” to “God, thank you in advance for the community of believers you are bringing around me.”
And this gratitude makes all the difference.
Whatever you are facing today, allow yourself to forget about it… at least for the next five minutes. Take a deep breath, and remember the promises of Jesus. Remember that God is outside of time and those promises are yours TODAY not just “someday.” And spend some time in prayer that looks different. Not prayers of “please help me” but prayers that say “God, thank you in advance.”