We are all looking for a change, here at the start of a new year, and only in a good way. More peace, better health, less grief, calmer waters to navigate. I keep thinking about that One Word to adopt for the year, and how I would like it to be an easy word, just for once this time. And I know we all feel the same way, that life has been too complicated lately, too much to handle, and we could use a break– and who hasn’t felt the deceptive longing for “back to normal” (as if we didn’t used to feel stressed about life at all?). But let’s face it, if we are looking for growth, and becoming our best people, easy doesn’t look that good on us.
I look back over the past twelve months, and see the difficult paths we have walked, and how we have found God there, and unexpected grace leaking out of every weak and broken place. I wonder if I would trade any of it, given the chance. There have been holy treasures hidden along the way, and the beauty of shared burdens. We are not the same people we were a year ago, thanks to these hard things, and that’s not all bad.
I used to tell my kids “just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it,” and “anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” Because I wanted them to know that the longer, harder way is usually the best way. Better results in life, and better for our inner life of heart and spirit and mind. We were created to do the hard and wonderful things: to steward this created world for God’s glory, to walk with Him and worship Him with our whole selves, to image His beautiful nature. A high calling. A weighty responsibility. The biggest challenge is not getting distracted by shiny things that look more fun, or listening to the whispers that you deserve a break, just a little more me time.
The writer of Hebrews could have been standing here with us looking out at the year ahead, when he encouraged his readers: “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:12-13). It’s solid wisdom for anyone: Pause and regroup, take a fresh hold on your life, and make a sensible plan for moving forward so that you will grow strong and not stumble. And he knew we needed that reminder that God is for us, acting with love and purpose– that what He does is “always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness.” (12:10)
There is nothing that can happen in the coming year that can overwhelm me or destroy me, if He is working good for me– so why would I fear? Just take the next step, into the unknown, and know that He will walk there too. And I can hear the promise that the Prophet Isaiah recorded for his people, still ringing true: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...” (Isaiah 43:2-3)
I am here, Lord, at the beginning of a new year, and you have my full attention. Everything may change this year, for all we know, but we know You will not. You are “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). And You will be right there in the middle, whenever we look for You, just as You were this past year. No matter what we face, You will shine brighter. In every clamor of voices, You will speak more clearly. Regardless of how steep the path or how deep the valley, Your hand will uphold us. Only let us fix our eyes on You and run joyfully.
Your love surrounds mePrince of Peace, Hillsong United
When my thoughts wage war;
When night screams terror
There Your voice will roar.
Come death or shadow,
God, I know Your light will meet me there.
When fear comes knocking,
There You’ll be my guard;
When day breeds trouble,
There You’ll hold my heart.
Come storm or battle,
God, I know Your peace will meet me there,
Again and again.
…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus….For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3