But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. -Luke 2:19
Think back on Mary's plight through this Christmas story. An angel comes to her several months ago and says she is pregnant with God's son, who is going to inherit the throne of King David and reign over all of Jacob's people (the Jews) forever. I can imagine throughout her pregnancy, Mary imagining dreams of her son being King and being a great ruler. I can even imagine her trying to figure out what exactly it meant that he was going to be the son of God. Would that mean he would be king over all the earth? Would that mean that he would be able to see God face to face? Would he become one of the great heroes of the Hebrew faith?
Then she gives birth to this son away from home in the dark, dirty corner of the barn.
That would be enough to make anyone question what the angel said.
But Mary knew of an important way to keep her faith strong when it seemed like God was no where to be found...she "treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart." In other words, she was keeping track of the things that showed God was keeping His promises and kept them in the forefront of her mind.
There are a number of ways that we can apply this method in our life. Choose a particular thing to keep a running list of and when a time comes when you are feeling discouraged in whatever way, pull the list out and remind yourself of all the times in the past that contradicted the way you are feeling at that moment.
For instance, when people are struggling having faith in God, I encourage them to write out a list of times when they felt like God answered their prayers, provided for them or showed up in some other powerful way. That way, in times of discouragement, when it is hard to have faith, you can pull that list out as a way to remind yourself of how God has worked in your life before.
Dr. Phil, who I don't endorse, does have a saying that makes a lot of sense, "The greatest indicator of future behavior is past behavior." And especially in matters involving God, we are told God is the same yesterday, today and forever. And that is why this sort of faith building and encouragement works so well...if it's happened in the past, save it up and use it as encouragement for the future!
So my encouragement to you, if you have some quiet time among all your holiday festivities, is to make a list or two of past events to have on hand when you need that boost of encouragement in the future. Here are some suggestions to get you started: "times when God was faithful", "times when plans went wrong but things still turned out okay", "times where I had strength to push through to the end", "times I had a conflict with someone and it worked out okay", "times that I particularly loved my spouse", and "times when it has been okay that I let someone help me". Do as Mary did. Treasure up these times and ponder them in your heart. That way, when the time comes, negative feelings and thoughts of discouragement can be put in their proper place.