The New Year is a great time to take stock of the past year and set goals for the next. Here’s a spiritual exercise to that end. (You will need one large candle and one small one.)
Begin by lighting the large candle, which represents Jesus, the light of the world. Read and think about these verses from the Bible:
"The goodness of God endures continually."—Psalm 52:1
Good things show up in our lives in a myriad of ways: friends and family, health and happiness, a roof overhead and food on the table, the enjoyment we derive from music, art, and literature. The Bible teaches us that God is the origin of these blessings. “God’s gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do.”1 “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.”2
The story of the boy who gave his lunch to the disciples to share with the multitude is well known.1 Jesus took the five small loaves and two fishes, blessed the food which was multiplied miraculously, and thousands of hungry people were satisfied. Who was the little boy? What was his name? What was the name of his thoughtful mother who provided the packed lunch? These details are not provided.
The Bible contains a lot of guidance for how to spend our time and energy: We’re to love and help others,1 share the good news of God’s love,2 and apply ourselves in our work,3 to name a few. But the Bible also teaches that sometimes it is best to stay put and let God work on our behalf.
“I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter told his fellow disciples.4
“We are going with you also,” they replied.
Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.—Author unknown
Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.—Colossians 3:15
To have peace reign in your heart may seem impossible when your mind is whirling in confusion at the stress of daily life. Yet such peace is promised; Jesus told us, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”1
Every day is filled with happy moments that we could thank God for, if we paused to acknowledge them. This thanksgiving exercise is based on what we perceive through our five traditional senses.
Sight: Many things are beautiful to behold, whether natural sights such as trees and flowers, created works such as art and architecture, or the sight of a friend or home after an absence. What pleasurable sights lined your path today? Thank God for them.
In one of her most famous poems, Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned a beautiful declaration of love that started like this:
“You have trusted [god] in a few things, and he has not failed you. Trust him now for everything. You find no difficulty in trusting him with the management of the universe and all the outward creation, and can your case be any more complex or difficult than these, that you need to be anxious or troubled about his management of it?”—Hannah Whitall Smith (1832–1911)