As Christmas has come to a close and we are moving towards the beginning of another year, I find myself sitting in awe that this whole year has passed and contemplating all that has transpired.
When we began this year, My mother had passed away only a month before, and we watched as her 80th birthday went by, sad she wasn’t able to make it to have it—this year ushered in more loss than we had seen in a while, bringing grief to the forefront of life.
Among the losses, my younger sister also battled cancer. I was grateful to be there to keep her company in that process, and I am thankful for the positive victories so far.
Many others at church have gone through these struggles and losses as well.
There have been very stressful personal battles, conflicts, heavy responsibilities along the way, and weariness that creep in through it all.
One of my favorite phrases is, “But God”.
But God has been there in very personal and powerful ways, and I am reflecting on that, too.
The thing about going through hard things is the amazing opportunity to experience God in some incredible new ways, both personal and transforming.
This year has caused me to lean into God even more intently. A friend and I have talked about what it means to truly cling to the Vine, as the Bible discusses in John 15. We are reminded that apart from Him, we can do nothing.
I don’t know where I would be without Jesus. The last six years have brought in a season that feels long, hard, and never-ending. The enemy has brought and used every tactic to seek to kill, steal, and destroy me.
I have seen the tangible presence of God in so many ways. As I have clung to Him and allowed myself to be dependent on Him instead of myself, He has shown me the reality of the promise that He never leaves or forsakes us.
As I had reached out for prayer in moments when I needed someone holding up my arms, I literally felt my arms being held up. There were some supernatural moments where I knew I was being carried. I could feel God fighting for me. I had never experienced it that up close, personal, and tangible.
As I have surrendered more fully and trusted wholeheartedly, God has shown Himself to be ever more faithful.
Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is the sustainer of my soul. Psalm 54:4
He has sustained me.
As chaos goes on inside, out, and around me, He is my constant. As the year ends, I am more sure and certain of that truth.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2
This verse has come alive to me this year. I used to think this verse meant I had to be glad about my trials and struggles or that we should want life to be hard so God can produce these things, but neither is true.
James is saying we can find joy in the middle of it because of what God is doing in us and through us in it all.
This does not come quickly or easily, and it is easier for others to tell us this when they are not the ones sacrificing and going through the situations we are in.
If we keep going back to God and leaning into Him, He helps us see those things He is doing and how He uses it all to transform us into the likeness of Christ.
As Christians, I think when people are struggling, we try too much to be God, giving the scriptural answers and trying to fix or put the pieces back together for people. Maybe we should pray with them or encourage them by letting them know you have seen Jesus in them as they have walked through some really hard things. Perhaps we could be a listening ear instead of chatting at them about what they need to do or get past.
This year, that is who I want to be for those around me. I want to encourage others with what I see God doing in them, to recognize the growth and steps they have taken forward. I want to pray them through where God is taking them and invite others to do that with me.
It has been a challenging year, and it is okay to acknowledge that, to grieve where I need to grieve and let out the pain, frustrations, discouragements, and disappointments we are feeling. I am learning to do this better without guilt or shame.
I also acknowledge God’s goodness and faithfulness to me. He has helped me have endurance and perseverance even when I felt like quitting or giving up. The tangible touch of His presence supernaturally and through others He has put into my life.
I am thankful and am ending this year praising my Savior and my God for it all and with bolder confidence and trust in HIm than I have ever had before.
I pray that as you ponder this year, no matter what you went through and what it has been, you can end this way, too!