I have always loved fresh starts.
Each new day I can begin again and get another chance to “be the person I want to become.” (Deitrich Bonnhoeffer) If a series of bad days string together four weeks long, I can turn the calendar page with a glimmer of hope and start fresh with a new month. Then if a series of struggling months string together in a series of twelve, I have the glorious opportunity to step into a whole new year.
But what if next year only promises to be a continuation of the last?
Sometimes the calendar turns in the middle of grief over the death of a loved one, or in the midst of a divorce, or during a health crisis. God promises that His mercies are new every morning but what if we are having trouble believing that?
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
2016 was rough for me.
No tragedies, but a long slog through the mud might be a good description. I worked really hard through a lot of resistance and ended the year without much to show for it.
It was a year of disappointment.
That is my feeling, which of course is a lie. The truth is, God did not disappoint me one second of one day in 2016.
If you are struggling for the sense of a fresh start like me, here is how I am wrapping up disappointment and trading it in for hope. Perhaps you can join me?
- Make a list of the good God did in 2016, even in the midst of our trials. Thank Him aloud for each item.
- Change something about yourself.
We can’t control one thing about our lives except ourselves. So pick something God has been urging you to do. The more difficult your life, the simpler and more doable this task must be. It might be to make your bed every morning. It might be to say a particular verse aloud every morning before you get out of bed. Such decisions count. Only actions like these can be resolutions. All else are wishes and hopes that God may or may not grant for our ultimate good.
Here is some of the good stuff God for me in 2016, even in the midst of my trials.
- I got to be part of a women’s ministry for the first time in a very long time. And it was good.
- Our daughters graduated from college, having done college well. They did the hard work.
- My son’s countenance. His smile lights up a room…and my life.
- How my son still waves at me as the bus pulls away each morning.
- How one daughter kisses me on the cheek as she leaves the house and as she returns.
- How one daughter talks long with me about significant issues in the world and about life.
- The grace of God that allows my husband to handle the physical rigor of his job. 40 years now. Still going strong.
- I became split shift at work this year, part classroom and part online. It made my life better.
- Blogging gives my mind a good place to go amidst the chaos of life. I appreciate the weekly routine and mental discipline.
- My girlfriends.
- One daughter decorated my house for Christmas after I fell and shattered my elbow.
- An anonymous person had my house cleaned one day after I shattered my elbow. So grateful!
- God had a Christ follower as my doctor and one of the finest in the southeast, all because his wife was my ER nurse!
This is what I will be changing about myself
Pray more than I work!
2016 was perhaps the most disappointing year of my life. I worked so hard for what appears to be nothing. Mind you, I know nothing is wasted and somehow all of my effort counts in God’s eternal economy but the visible results of my labor were kept hidden from me this year. My job gets untold amounts of my time and energy for little pay. (Be kind to teachers!) The results of my blogging and speaking are a big unknown. I shattered my left elbow, burst the bursa sack on my right knee, and permanently marred my right thumbnail this year, each leaving visible effects.
But the real heart breaker was that our house didn’t sell after so much work.
God gets to have His way. I can’t control any of the trials listed above. But I can change something about myself. I am going to pray more! Don’t get me wrong, I am a pray-er, but the realities of my life make it difficult to pray first each day. I hit the ground running. My son often arises at 4 a.m., as do I several mornings a week in order to get to work on time. I need to get him fed and have prayers and Bible reading with him before he goes to school. Student e-mails must also be checked every morning before leaving for work in case a student has a question that needs to be answered before class that day. These realities cause legitimate physical hindrances to a practice of time in prayer with God each day,
I allowed such barriers to slide me into a life of working more than I prayed.
Each of us is powerless. By that I mean we can’t produce a particular effect as a result of our actions. We can’t make someone like us or cooperate with us. We can’t ensure that we earn an A on an exam no matter how hard we study. We can’t make a person respond well to biblical counsel or the gospel.
So why in the world would I want to live one day of my life working so hard without the power of God invited into my life?
Each of us works too hard to have our work just count for itself.
Since I want my effort to produce God-breathed results, then I have to connect to God. Through prayer, I need to purposefully plug into Him — invite Him in, transfer my trust from myself to Him, lay my anxieties and activities into His hands…
THEN I will work as hard as I always do…but only then.
I pray you bring God’s goodness from 2016 into the start of 2017 and that you change something about yourself that will produce more glory for God this year.
Happy New Year.
Picture Explanation: A relaxing Christmas day followed by a trip to Chicago to visit our daughter’s family and grandchildren. We visited the famed Museum of Science and Industry. The little darling above could not go because she is experiencing some medical issues. Please say a prayer for her.
A wrapping up of the past year. An infusion of hope for the coming year. Incredible gratitude for a Savior that knows us and meets us in all things messy.
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