It is now a little over two weeks into a new year. Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? If so, how are you doing at this point in time? Good? Not so good? Well, we all start with good intentions, don’t we? We make resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight, start an exercise program, or maybe set some financial goals, like putting X number of dollars in a savings account each payday. We make it through the first week or two and so far so good, right? So maybe we’ll even make it through the first month (hard to say at this point since there are still another two weeks left in the month). Old habits are hard to break. Old habits are very, very, very hard to break.
Most of us look to a new year as a fresh start–a chance to try to get it right one more time (since it hasn’t worked so far). We look back at the past year with a sigh, thankful that it is over, and somehow at the magic hour of midnight on New Year’s Eve, we think it will all change for the better. Actually, it is just another day only with a new number for the new year attached to it, but it’s really no different then the previous 365 days in the old year. Yet, hope springs eternal that this will be “our” year for success. “Out with the old, in with the new,” we say. And here we are, seventeen days into a new year and, well, what has really changed? Anything?
Personally, I’m hoping this long saga of unemployment will finally end early on into this year. It would be nice after lasting almost four years at this point in time. But will it? Who knows? I’d also like to lose 50 lbs in a week (and so would the other 35% of Americans considered to be obese–that’s 78 million people according to an article in The Huffington Post. Both are pretty daunting goals (the second one definitely unreachable in a week but over a year it’s certainly possible). The first one I have no control over at this point in time (not that I ever did have any control over it), but I know Who holds the answer and He has His reasons for this very extended time of unemployment in my life. But I’ll tell you one thing–it’s been a real blessing to be away from office politics.
Read John 16:25-33
I was glad to see the final days of the year draw to a close. It had held so much sorrow, sickness, and sadness. I was ready to welcome January with its very own brass band!
But as the first month of the new year arrived, so did one bit of sad news after another. Several friends lost their parents. My dad’s brother slipped away in his sleep. Friends discovered they had cancer. A colleague’s brother and a friend’s son both died tragically and abruptly. Rather than the sad times ceasing, the new year seemed to bring a whole new tsunami of sorrow.
John 16:33 tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Even God’s children are not promised a life of ease, of prosperity, nor of good health. Yet we are never alone in our trouble. Isaiah 43:2 reminds us that when we pass through deep waters, God is with us. Although we don’t always understand God’s purposes in the trials we experience, we can trust His heart because we know Him.
Our God is a God of abundant love and “neither death nor life. . . nor things present nor things to come [will ever] separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). When trouble comes, His presence is His promise. ~Cindy Hess Kasper
Swift cometh His answer, so clear and so sweet;
“Yea, I will be with thee, thy troubles to meet;
I will not forget thee, nor fail thee, nor grieve;
I will not forsake thee, I never will leave.” ~Flint
Faith is believing that God is present
when all we hear is silence.
Life has a way of “getting in the way” of what we want, doesn’t it? We’ve been sold a bill of goods over the years that if we belong to God, we can expect certain things, like prosperity, or good health, or an easier life. However, Jesus clearly said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and yet when trouble comes our way we are surprised and wonder where God is in the midst of it and where is that peace He promised us?
James 1:2-4 makes it very clear that we will have trials of many kinds in this life, and James gives us the reason for it, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” So why do many Christians at least here in America complain bitterly under trials? We are clearly told the reason for the trials–it is to test our faith and to develop perseverance so that we can be mature and complete, not lacking anything (and that’s not talking about materials possessions, either).
We live in an instant society. Athletes may be good at perseverance but the rest of us get upset the minute we stub our toe. The race we excel at is complaining, grumbling, and crying out to God to relieve us now. Our five-minute attention span can’t handle a long term trial of any kind, and if we have to endure it, we’ll do it complaining and grumbling all the way. We even get into “top this” misery stories with each other. And we have to look up perseverance in the dictionary to even understand what it is (but we’d rather complain and wallow in our misery, thank you very much). Maybe we get more attention that way. After all, misery loves company.
So, if we don’t understand what perseverance really is and what purpose it serves then we aren’t ever going to be “mature and complete” which is the goal of every trial we go through. Did you get that? Every trial has a God-given purpose in our lives–every single one. He doesn’t make mistakes. And it’s to make us “mature and complete” in Jesus Christ.
If you don’t know how to do it, James 1:5-8 has the answer, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
There are a lot of “doubters” sitting in church pews today. They trust in themselves far more then they trust in God. They trust in their own abilities to keep their lives on track and have little room for “God’s intervention.” When a trial comes up in their lives, they are quick to try to find the solution, many times running to and fro in a futile attempt to solve the problem on their own. Whatever happened to asking God for wisdom when a trial comes up and waiting for His answer instead of rushing ahead with our own solution? He clearly states that He will give it to us generously and without finding fault (a true blessing since humans like finding fault with each other all the time).
But here’s the rub . . . in order to get that kind of wisdom we must truly believe that He will give it and not doubt. We must have faith in Him and not in ourselves. And that means waiting for His answer and not pushing ahead with our own solution to the problem. If we force the issue and try to do it on our own, God has clearly stated that we cannot expect anything from Him because we doubt Him and His working in our lives.
I must confess that during this very lengthy time of unemployment there has been one time about a year and a half ago when I tried to push God’s hand in the matter. And with my own very limited understanding I even found myself trying to bargain with Him. The result was not pleasant but I got the message loud and clear–He knows better than I do, and He only had to show me that once. But as I have continued to ask for wisdom during this time and have not doubted that He would give it to me–and He did give me wisdom that one time when I thought I understood what was going on (but didn’t) to help me understand the error of my way–He has given me the wisdom to understand things on a moment-by-moment, daily basis that I never would or could have understood on my own, and that I would have totally missed out on if I had forced my own way to try to end this trial of mine prematurely.
That is not to say that I don’t get weary from it. But I don’t complain, and if I find myself starting to complain I stop as soon as I realize I’m doing it. And, I don’t try to tell God how to solve it, either. He knows what He is doing far better then I do, and He has His reasons which I may or may not eventually know this side of Heaven. I have to trust Him completely with my life even when the going gets very, very rough. He’s my anchor, and I’ll continue to ride out the storm with Him in control.
So, seventeen days into a new year, if things aren’t going quite like you had hoped they would, why not ask God for His wisdom for the road ahead, and take your own hands off the steering wheel. And even if it’s a bumpy ride, if you trust Him and don’t doubt, He can and will take you through anything.
Do you believe it?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.
YouTube Video: “I Never Lost My Praise” by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: