We should not be surprised if we sometimes struggle to see such wonders when we look behind us. Another psalmist would pray, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Only the Holy Spirit can reveal God’s wonders to us, whether in the pages of Scripture or the pages of our past. The Spirit does open our eyes, however, and he does so as we look. Consider, then, the wonders that God has wrought in your past — wonders that David could have only dreamed of.
The end of a year invites us to take a look backward and forward — back to the year whose last pages are turning, forward to the year whose cover lies before us. Depending on where you are in life, however, studying the past and the future might feel like more than you can bear.
Our worst days — or weeks, or months, or years — have a way of burying the mercies of God in our past, and darkening the promises of God for our future. The past becomes a list of hopes deferred, relationships lost, opportunities squandered, all telling the broken story of how we landed here. And the future, as far as we can see, will only get worse.
For God’s people, however, what we see never tells the full story. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith, not sight, must be our guide as we scan the pages of yesterday and turn the page of tomorrow. And faith has a different interpretation than what our worst moments would suggest.
When faith looks to the past and to the future, it says with David, “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us” (Psalm 40:5). The past, no matter how many ghosts walk there, is full of his wondrous deeds. The future, no matter how many sorrows await us there, is full of his merciful plans.
As David surveys the years gone by, he is not naïve. He sees the sins and the sorrows behind him, some of them too numerous to count (Psalm 40:12). But these are not the most fundamental, the most weighty, parts of his past. Against the blackness of this sky, he sees stars shining: “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds . . . toward us” (Psalm 40:5).
Throughout the Psalms, the phrase wondrous deeds refers to the works of God in creation and redemption — from the miracle of the exodus (Psalm 106:22) to the mystery of our own nerves and sinews (Psalm 139:14).