I just came in from a walk in the brisk November air. There was a nip to the air, reminding me that winter is coming. Somehow, the long summer turned into fall, and now fall is slipping beneath the spell of winter.
My summer was beautiful. It was a season of growth and new experiences, love and deep friendships, serving and ministry opportunities. God’s hand was clearly at work in my life in the little things and big, and it was a sweet season with Him. Summer was full and delightful and challenging and I can truthfully say that I lived it to the fullest. I treasured each moment and I have no regrets.
Fall has been hard. As the leaves fall off the trees and the long summer days grow short, I’ve walked through loss and tears and the death of dreams. To be fair, fall has had its beautiful moments, too. Where I am weak, He has been strong. I’ve learned a new level of dependance on Him. Opportunities for service and ministry abound, and I’ve seen His faithfulness and goodness over and over. “Hard” is worth doing, and even here, I have no regrets.
But now winter is coming. I’m entering a season of being hidden away and prepared for spring. I’m asking God to work deeply in my heart, to prune and refine me, and to teach me the secrets of resting in Him. Along with that, I’m considering the reality that 2019 is coming soon. The ads for planners and goal setting sheets and the like are showing up everywhere. And I am asking, what is my prayer for 2019?
I think of the post I wrote back at the beginning of 2018. Little did I know what this year would hold. I am so, so glad I determined to be successful in nobody’s eyes but His. So grateful I chose to focus on Him and Him alone, and take time to be holy. So.very.thankful. that I decided to accept from the very beginning that this year was going to hold surprises and plans going awry and beautiful moments and incredibly painful ones too, and that I chose to see them not as interruptions but as His very best plan for me.
I’m certain I’m not alone in having had a 2018 full of beautiful and painful moments swirled together. Likely none of us would have scripted our own past months the way they happened . . . but we could all find an abundance of things to be grateful for in them. Perhaps we would do well to sit together and reflect a bit on this past year, and then ponder what we want for 2019.
How do we prepare our hearts for the year to come? What does it look like to trust God’s sovereignty and God’s kindness? How do we plan when we don’t really know what is coming?
God didn’t promise that life on this earth would be easy, after all. He did promise that He would never leave us or forsake us. That’s no small promise . . . but we are human, and how do you set goals and plan your year when you know that your entire life could change completely overnight . . . or perhaps that the changes you’d like to make might not actually happen at all because they’re out of your control?
Life holds things like cancer, death of loved ones, job losses, moves, transitions of all kinds, hard marriages, infertility, and more. And it’s not just the big stuff. Day-to-day life is its own kind of hard, be it chronic illness, difficult coworkers, the challenges of building community, conflict in relationships, even just really good things that are also really hard, like marriage and raising kids.
How do you set goals in all of that? How do you plan and prepare when the known reality is hard enough, and thinking about the unknowns is simply overwhelming? What if I’m single forever? What if the treatment doesn’t work? What if my marriage never improves? What if I never have a baby? Or quite frankly, the kids aren’t leaving for a very long time and I can’t see past the laundry and the messes and I’m supposed to plan?
Dear sister, what if it wasn’t all about planning and preparing? God is showing me the value of this one thing:
We are not in control, much as we might like to think we are. The reality is that in this world we will have tribulation. But take heart! He has overcome the world, and He is faithful. Because of that, we too can determine to be faithful, come what may.
This year, plan . . . to be faithful.
Faithful in reading His Word and spending time in His presence daily.
Faithful in loving well.
Faithful in humility and gentleness and patience and bearing with others.
Faithful in trusting Him.
Faithful to acknowledge Him in all our paths.
Faithful to walk in grace, and walk by faith.
Faithful to choose Word before world.
Faithful to seek first His kingdom.
Faithful to consider it pure joy when we face trials.
Faithful to fix our eyes on Him.
The list could go on forever. I’d challenge you to write down the specific areas that God is calling you to be faithful in. And out of that, sure, you may plan and prepare and set goals. But perhaps your goals might look a little different. Maybe they’d be focused around “becoming more like Jesus” instead of “becoming successful in the eyes of the world”? Maybe they’d allow you to graciously accept whatever life holds right along with pursuing excellence and growth?
It’s a journey, I know. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26
When I am faithless, He is faithful still. And with that, let’s be faithful, through the end of this year and into the next!
Learning faithfulness right along with you,