With the turn of the calendar from 2018 into 2019, I will confess I found myself longing for a page-turner in my soul. Leave that dusty, gray, cloud-covered season in my rear-view mirror and jump right into a clean pallet, blue sky, budding blossoms type season. Make a clean break from the burdens, fears, and disappointments of the ending year, and shine a spotlight on the wonderful start to a new now.
Last year wasn’t my favorite. I had an inkling from the first of 2018 that it was going to be a challenging one, and the Lord was kind to give me a little heads up in the form of my word for the year: Cling.
Can you say, “Eeew”?
I decided there must be a synonym that sounded prettier, even if it meant I was going to be desperate. I landed on tenacious as a seemingly appropriate upgrade, but it never felt completely accurate. And as the year progressed, it became clear that tenacious sounded better because it was a compliment to the one being tenacious – me. I was, however, not in a position to receive compliments. Instead, I found myself desperate for spiritual oxygen and peace. Clinging to Jesus was the only thing holding my mind and emotions together while I was trying desperately to focus on truth, yet my heart and mind refused to get in line. It was about Him being worthy of clinging to.
Our family experienced tremendous gifts and grace throughout the year, but the overwhelming sentiment in my heart was: adversity. It was a year of prolonged minor illnesses, many MANY trips to all the doctors’ offices, a couple ER visits, and surgeries in my little family. The culmination of such a long season of unpredictable health and postpartum upheaval (following the arrival of one of the gifts of 2018) opened the door for a period of high anxiety within my heart, and an isolating and paralyzing mental state. We also walked along side several friends traversing very dark and challenging seasons in their lives, and the general feeling for me became that life was out of control, and I was just being dragged along behind it for an undetermined amount of time.
“This will end,” shared a very gracious friend and mentor one particularly dark day. I’m not sure I believed it until she said it, but when that truth slipped into my heart, I felt a weight lifted and a spark of hope that my sleep-deprived, anxiety-laden, emotionally-wrecked self had dared not embrace.
She was right. Those particularly cumbersome days did end. My body healed. My mind healed. My heart is healing too. It could be tempting to bury all that yuck and focus solely on a fresh start. But the reality is that it is in the dark muck – when we’re flat on our back or bent low on our knees –we meet the Savior. Or rather, He meets us. And when we cling to Him? Well, that’s when we start to see His footprints in the sand behind us, as He carries us along.
The truths that the Holy Spirit infused into those days through devotionals, Scripture, prayers of friends and family, songs, and sermons are some of the most meaningful to me. And they are the reason that sometimes, the Lord allows us to remain in trial – even when we are doing everything right – because through it, we get to use and test the tools He has given in His Word, and draw closer to Him. Knowing about the goodness of God makes a beautiful trophy for our Christian achievement cabinet, but actually trusting Him to be good when nothing else seems good is what sharpens our faith, and puts those trophies to work.
I don’t know what kind of a year you left behind when the first of January rang in. Maybe 2018 was a mountaintop year for you, with growth and health in your family or business. Maybe you, like me, sense that the rhythm of this year could heal and strengthen you in areas of defeat, fear, or pain from the last. Or it could be that when 2019 rolled in, you shuddered to think that you might find the darkest days of your trial yet to come. Wherever you find yourself, I want to leave these thoughts with you.
You are not alone. For those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior, He is PRESENT, He is our HELP, and will BE with us.
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Psalm 91:15b “I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.”
Our God’s God-ness is unaltered, even when our world collapses around us. Nothing you have done or can do, nothing that has been done to you or against you, and nothing that you fear or fail can change who God is or how much He loves you. His strength remains. His power prevails. And His will WILL be done.
Hebrews 1:11-12 “they [the heavens and the foundations of the earth] will perish, but you [Christ] remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (Emphasis mine)
Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 94:18 “When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.”
The Lord’s faithfulness is stronger than our fear. I distinctly remember reading Psalm 25:10 repeatedly because it brought tremendous relief and freedom. As a follower of Jesus, I can rest knowing that whatever path the Lord allows or brings into my life, it is cobbled with His STEADFAST LOVE and His FAITHFULNESS. When hardships find their way into the lives of obedient believers, it does not mean we haven’t been or aren’t doing things the way we ought. It might just mean that Christ’s faithfulness and love call us into a place where we can more deeply know and experience His character and power – in a place where we have exhausted our own.
Psalm 25:10 “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”
Psalm 27:1 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Do life in community with others who will be the hands and feet of Jesus to you. Fight hard to have a friend or two that will speak truth into your weary soul and hold you up in prayer. My family experienced an abundance of love in action from some precious people in the last year. Not only were physical and spiritual needs met, but the physical and emotional encouragement that it provided also pointed us back to how great our God is, and showed us that He cares for both the major and menial pieces of our lives. We love looking for ways to serve others in their need, and keep passing it along.
Philippians 2:3-2 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
1 John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
1 Corinthians 13:4a, 7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
As you and I dive into this year – whatever it may hold – my prayer is that we find ourselves THRIVING. Webster defines thrive this way: “to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.”
May we take what we have experienced about who God is and how He loves and leads, and respond well to each thing He allows, in order that we might become more like Christ. And let 2019 show that we trusted, loved, and accepted more of what He wants to teach, give, and show us about Himself.