It’s that time of year. The time when many of us reflect, rehearse and regroup. I’m certainly doing that a bit. I’m pondering the good, the bad and the ugly of 2016. Because my mama taught me to be thankful for the gifts I receive (and that lesson is etched deeply within my heart), I typically default to thankfulness for the good gifts I receive. But if I was really honest, not so much when I face the bad … and the ugly.
Thankfulness in the midst of pain is difficult. I must fight hard for it! I ask and keep on asking. I seek and keep on seeking. I knock and keep on knocking. I go to my good, gift-giving Father and plead for His grace in possessing a more trusting and thankful heart. I want my heart to believe that the Jesus in me (Col 1) is bigger than any earthly hardship I face and better than any earthly happiness I may experience. I desire to learn to have a wellness of soul that comes from the abiding assurance that every single thing happening around me and to me is working in me something good. Since “His grace and peace have been multiplied to me, and His divine power has granted me all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1), I continually pray to live more consistently on higher ground and with a better perspective. I’m a work in progress, for sure!
As I look back, I think it’s fair to say that this past year was one of the most difficult years we’ve encountered as a family. [Though I’m usually a very transparent writer, because of issues of privacy I must remain vague about the circumstances surrounding the trauma we experienced.] Some of the days of 2016 were filled with tears and sorrow and angst. At times, the peace and joy that come from a thankful heart seemed distant and unattainable. I knew the truth in my head, but my heart had so many questions. It is only by His great grace that I kept praying and believing. God used encouraging friends and family to strengthen me through wisdom and godly counsel. They also shed tears with me and for me. And they prayed faithfully with me and for me.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, my heart had no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay. My Good Father has daily provided me glimpses of His grace. Mercy has continually chased me, with abundant portions being provided each new day. I’ve been able to press into Him and onto higher ground.
Scripture teaches us that grace is provided as needed. Story after story in the bible reveals this reality. I also know this truth from personal experience. I’ve come to fully believe that even when we can’t trace God’s hand, we can definitely trust His heart. The old hymn said it like this “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take! The clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”
Newer artists have said the same thing in another way: “We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering. And all the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things. And what if your blessings come through rain drops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”
So here I am … reflecting and rehearsing. What.A.Year! And yet, in spite of the year’s unexpected agony, I am able to say that it is well with my soul. Genuine thankfulness has eventually taken shape in my heart. I can sincerely say that I have found a way to be sorrowful while still rejoicing. On the days when anxiety gripped my heart, and I was tempted to despair, the Voice that scatters fear was near and real. When all around my soul wanted to give way, He reminded me that He is all my hope and stay. And most assuring is the trustworthy promise that even when I’m not faithful, He is faithful. He is sanctifying and purifying me. He who calls us promises us that He WILL do it. (1 Thess 5)
And He is certainly is.
I remember Brent years ago, singing loudly and courageously the lyrics to a SCC song: “Bring it on! Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll, let the storm winds blow.
Bring it on! Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall, let it make me strong. Bring it on!”
I would shutter a little and inwardly say to myself and God: NO, GOD, DON’T! I can’t do it. I’m not ready.
The truth is, I am never really ready. I most certainly wasn’t ready for 2016. But God was. He was already there. The storm winds that I so much dreaded (and didn’t even know it) were big with mercy that I never realized existed until I needed it. I don’t want to run from the very things that will drive me closer to Him.
Spurgeon said that “there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus: humility, happiness and holiness.” May it be so of me in 2017.
I may not be ready to sing loudly with SCC and Brent quite yet, but I do pray that I will continue to “learn in whatever situation I am to be content … [and] that in any and every circumstance, I will learn the secret … that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
And a Holy and Humble and Happy New Year to you all!