For the last few years, I’ve welcomed the New Year with arms so wide open I could have hugged an airplane! FINALLY . . . this last year is O-V-E-R! Bubbling over with excitement, I hang up the new calendar and yell . . .
This Year Is Going to Be Fantastic!
Ever had one of those new years? The kind of year that was, let’s say, more “character building” than you ever could have expected?
While we often don’t ask for challenges, few things are as relieving as when challenges disappear in the dust of our rearview mirror.
Then . . . the new year started. It didn’t take long to figure out that the whole “character development” issue didn’t end just by turning the calendar page.
Here are some things my family and I faced these last few years:
- My husband received spinal injections for debilitating nerve pain.
- Both my kids moved out for school the first week of January—on the same weekend.
- We were victims of identity theft for the third year in a row.
- My son’s tutor moved and his teacher quit, so he had to be home until we found a new place.
- I lost two very dear friends unexpectedly.
- My mom, sister, and I all had spinal-fusion surgeries—resulting in the worst pain ever!
- Several family members were sick for several months.
- My husband’s arthritic knee and shoulder needed injections (due to years of body building).
- I had a full hysterectomy after suffering with chronic pain for seven months.
- I had a seizure, and my son’s seizure activity increased. (One in 26 adults will have at least one seizure in their lifetime.)
Along with surprises, sorrows, and setbacks, we’ve had some spectacular celebrations: several weddings, graduations, and family getaways, all with fantastic memories we now treasure.
We continue to endure chronic spine pain, arthritis, a loved one with advanced Alzheimer’s, others with autoimmune disorders, vision and hearing challenges, my son’s ongoing disabilities . . . stuff that comes with life and age.
Over time, I’ve learned this reality: All our experiences are known and allowed by God; what we do with them is what matters most.
The apostle Paul modeled this mind-set beautifully, choosing to see a bigger picture than just a one-day snapshot. While in a Roman prison (one of the worst places I can think of), he wrote:
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. (Philippians 1:9–12)
We are about to welcome a new year. I believe we all can wholeheartedly say:
This Year Is Going to Be Fantastic!
In the verses above, Paul offers clear direction and insight on how we can live a fantastic life amid all our circumstances.
- Pray continually: Paul’s first declaration in Philippians 1:9 says “I pray.” Nothing brings us closer to God than when we pray. Prayer is simply talking with God. Paul leads by example, showing that when we pray for others, we not only show our care for others, but our hearts are purified as well. Prayer purges our hearts of trying to control, seek revenge, doubt, alienate, and judge others. Prayer says, “I trust you, Lord, to do what is best and what only You can do in my life and others’ lives.” When we let go of trying to “help” God, we are free to be present with others and alive in Christ.
- Love abundantly: Paul prayed that his readers would not only love but love in abundance. Around our house, we say, “Love is a verb,” meaning love is an active, ongoing attitude of caring and serving others before ourselves. To the degree we have accepted and internalized God’s grace and love for us, we are able to give that to others. If God places us this year in less than comfortable situations such as a hospital, an addiction group, as a caregiver with 24/7 demands, or any other difficult situation, we should reframe our thinking. Instead of complaining about what we don’t like, we are to call upon the Lord to show us who He wants us to love and serve. We must replace our pity party with a loving perspective.
- Grow consistently: Paul compels his readers to grow in knowledge and discernment. Not only are we to keep learning, we are to apply that learning so God is glorified. We are to always be attentive to what is good and evil, right and wrong; work through conflict (which is sure to come); and seek to understand others accurately—and not judge. Growth always has some level of pain. Our job is to welcome the pain, knowing God is working in us for a purpose we may not see at the time. Stay at it.
- Think differently: We will all encounter something this year that makes little sense at the time. Let’s look above and beyond the present, remembering God has a good plan in spite of current discomforts. Let’s develop an attitude of acceptance, because we may not always like or understand what He allows. However, we must always believe and look for how He can use us right where we are.
Let Me Hear from You
Let’s talk about your year.
We know there will be less than fantastic events this next year. What we don’t know is how God will use them in our lives. Allow this to cultivate in you a sense of wonder.
Seek Him through prayer, love, growth, and a different perspective. By putting these points into practice, what kind of year will you have? I would love to hear from you!