The end of a year is always a good time for reflection. Many of us look back on the good things that happened, and realize just how much life we lived inside of twelve months. For a lot of us, there are hard times woven in with all the beautiful memories. We don’t discount those, but we don’t want to dwell there, either. In order to move on from a difficult situation, though, we often have to look at it, acknowledge it, understand the lessons learned before we can move on. For me, this post is an attempt at just that – looking back at what has been the hardest year of my life, and then to move on.
I recently read a quote from one of my favorite books, The Velveteen Rabbit. I’m always amazed by just how much wisdom we can find in the pages of a children’s book. This particular quote jumped out at me because it talks about living life – about the change from a pristine, untouched life, to a messy, beautiful, fully-loved life:
“You become. It takes a long time.
That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges,
or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams
This year has, in fact, been the worst year of my life. If things had gone even the slightest bit differently, I stood to lose my marriage, my husband, my home. I felt like my life was in a state of pre-Job quite often. I read Job’s story, knowing that at any moment, that could be me.
I spent a lot of time this year thinking that was the important part of the story. I felt like the shame was the weight around my neck – the one that almost took me under. I felt (and still feel) the stares and questions, the wondering. And what’s been the hardest part – those have come from people once very close to me. But they don’t understand. They don’t understand the power of redemption. And that’s where I can identify with Margery Williams’ quote – “…because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I read an article last night that discussed how so many of us look at going to do God’s big works – whether it’s to a country overseas, or to a neighborhood that needs rebuilding and ministry. But what if God calls us to stay and deal with the messiness and the uncomfortable aspects or our current situation? What if we can do the greatest good right where we’re at?
I spent so much time this year, just trying to breathe and survive moment to moment, that it takes times of reflection like this for me to see that while the year has definitely been about all that’s gone wrong, the bigger picture shows all that is going right.
I have shared about standing my ground – waiting, while God works around me. And yet, I’ve watched my life fall around me. The words of II Corinthians 4:8-9 have become very real to me:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Yes, every one of those things happened in my life this past year.
Hard pressed. Perplexed. Persecuted. Struck down.
– but –
Not in despair.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I know so many of you face challenges like I have. The circumstances may be different, but at one time or another, we all face the fight of our lives. The enemy will come knocking. He’s going to try to destroy us, in any way that he can. And friends, he has the power to cause some intense pain. Life may come crashing down, friends may turn and leave you. A life that once made so much sense may become utterly meaningless. Everything you thought you loved may be asked of you. You may feel like your life has become a pile of ashes.
Like me, you may feel that’s your story.
Can I encourage you, though, that it’s not the end of your story. Hallelujah!
Isaiah 61: 1b-3 reminds us –
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
I don’t know where you find yourself right now. I have been at every end of the spectrum this year – from barely able to breathe, to now having eleven great days in a row. I went from not knowing which end was up, to being extremely grateful at the start and end of each day.
When we find ourselves in the fight of our lives, we can be sure of one thing: God.
We have the head knowledge of what He’s done in the past, and we have the heart knowledge that He never changes.
Oh, we may feel like He changes. We may feel like we’ve been left high and dry. But that’s not our God.
Our God is faithful and our hope is in Him. Those times when we’re fighting for our lives? Those are the times to drop our anchors – to move the head knowledge of faith in God, to a heart knowledge. Stay with Jesus. Don’t move. Pray for His grace and mercy.
Because it’s only through hope that we can look ahead to the redemption that God is going to bring. Our God is a God of redemption – He is redemption.
As we head toward the new year, you’ll hear more about redemption – my one word for 2015. I’m so excited to see what God is going to do!
Friends, this time of reflection has been so good for my heart. It’s taken me 3 days to get this post written because there were so many different reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness. This has been a year of survival. But I firmly believe God’s going to redeem the year I’ve had and use it for His glory. And I believe the same for you.
If you’re struggling right now, if you’re feeling like you’re in the fight of your life, will you let me know so I can pray for you, and with you? Feel free to leave a comment below, or email me – my contact information is listed in the Contact tab at the top of the page. And would you consider joining us on Facebook for the new year? I have such a heart for sharing redemption in the new year, and would love for you to join us.
I know this post has mostly been for me to reflect; I do pray you’ve found something to take away and keep close to your heart.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
I Corinthians 13:12
Check back soon for the start of the year of redemption!