You feel all thoughtful on New Year’s Eve, or at least like you should be thoughtful, looking back over the past year, looking forward to the next 365 days. You feel like maybe you should have something deep to say about the workings of the world, how you’ve changed and grown, all your goals and dreams.
But mostly you are too full of leftover Christmas goodies, pulled back out for one more celebration before being unceremoniously dumped into the trash because of New Year’s Resolutions.
This year has been hard, and not because anything tragic happened in our family, but maybe just because it was a slightly less fun than normal year. We sat tonight and talked about our favorite moments and honestly none of them were these super amazing mountaintop experiences. A lot of the good stuff got kind of swallowed up in the hard stuff that came afterward. But I think that’s okay. Not every year can be SUPERCRAZYAMAZING. Some years are just regular life, mixed in with a fun trip to see family, homeschool talent shows, birthdays, a couples conference, a funeral, trips to camp, new skills learned. One child learned algebra and another learned to read chapter books and I learned to crochet and fizzled out shamefully fast.
I have been kind of discouraged because my year of opening didn’t pan out as I expected, but I sat with God this morning and He helped me to see that these words of the year aren’t meant to be a sudden one-time miraculous turnaround. They plant a seed and start a habit– a habit of sacrifice, a habit of being more open– and the roots of that begin to take shape throughout the year so that at the end maybe there’s just a little sprout starting to show itself above the ground. But that growth continues in the new year. And that’s encouraging.
And I guess I can see ways I have become more open this year– in my communication with others, especially, about what God is doing in me. In this blog. In my relationships. I have been given opportunities to be open to others who have hurt me– in other words, to offer free forgiveness. That isn’t what I expected, but things seldom are. A word is just a guide. In the end it’s God who makes the changes in our hearts.
I have come to see this year more than ever before that every single things that happens can go two ways– for evil or for good. God wants to use it for good, but the enemy wants to use it for evil. If I, as James instructs, let patience have its perfect work, if I accept the hard stuff as a tool God is using to do His good work in my life, then I am opening myself up to see amazing things. Joseph knew this. He told his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” In the end, the evil intentions of others– even the devil himself– can never overcome God’s ability to use things for good in my life. But if I close my hands to the gifts of God, the ones that don’t look like gifts, that feel like curses, I am giving Satan the opportunity to use my circumstances to bring bitterness, anger, and defeat into my life.
I think that one thing I have really been struck with this year is the importance of faithfulness, regardless of my feelings. I haven’t learned this lesson. I am so far from it. In fact, the last couple weeks have been a huge struggle to do the work. But it is something I am hoping to work on in the new year– to just be faithful, to take the next step, to ignore my feelings and my doubts, to throw all my fears and all my fleshly desires and all my self-centeredness on the One who bears my burdens, and to simply obey.
My God is faithful. He has been faithful for all 366 days of 2016– faithful through a sprained ankle, a death in the family, depression, a ridiculous election, and all my faithless wavering.
And in the end, all of my reflections are meaningless if they don’t come back to Him. He is good. Good, loving, faithful, and true. And He loves me.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.