The season of Advent is upon us, but I am a little reluctant to move on from Thanksgiving. Watching the videos of people on Black Friday, there are many who would do well to hold on to Thanksgiving a little bit longer. Gratitude is not something to reserve for one day of the year, but it is something to strive for every day.
I left off last week, before Thanksgiving, talking about the acronym P.O.E.T. It stands for:
Today I want to continue the discussion and talk about being grateful for experiences. There are different types of experiences for which to be grateful.
Our family had a November to remember. We took a family vacation at the beginning of the month to Disney World in Florida. Then on Thanksgiving Day, my daughter and I ventured into New York City to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Two bucket list experiences in one month!
The great thing about experiences is that no one can take them away from us. We will hold on to those memories for the rest of our lives. We all remember riding a bike for the first time, that first kiss, and the birth of a child. These are special moments. Let’s remember the Giver of Life who makes all these great experiences possible.
Not every experience in life is a joyful experience. There are painful and difficult experiences. These are what I would call learning experiences. These are experiences I would never want to go through again, but I am glad I did. We all have a few hard learned lessons. We all have a tendency to learn the hard way. You may not want to thank God for the experience itself, but give him thanks for the lesson learned.
Faith-building experiences are similar to learning experiences. We might even consider them to be a special class of learning experiences. These are the experiences where we learn to trust God. These are experiences that refine our faith.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6–7 (ESV)
It might be the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or a difficult divorce. Faith is rarely built on the sunny days of life. It is most often forged in the most difficult experiences.
Again, we may not be grateful for the experience itself, but if we look closely enough, we will find opportunity to be grateful even in the most demanding moments in life. It might be that we are grateful for God’s help. It might be that we are grateful for him taking us by the hand to navigate a challenging circumstance. It might be discovering gratitude in realizing that there is a greater experience that awaits all who trust Jesus as Savior. I am grateful to know that when I am weighed down by the burdens of this world, that these burdens are only temporary.
Your experiences in life are unique to you. No one has all the same experiences as you. It is part of what makes you who you are. It is part of what enables you to serve your Lord in a way that no one else could serve him. Each of us has our individual contribution to make in the Kingdom of God. As you think about your experiences in life, consider the possibilities of how you can use your unique experiences in life to bless God and others.
Questions for Reflection
- What are your joyful experiences?
- What are your learning experiences?
- What are your faith building experiences?
- How can you use your unique experiences to bless God and others?