The month of January, and the start of a new year, can bring mixed blessings for many. It brings the end of one year, good or bad, and the expectation of the New Year approaching. For me, we celebrate my birthday and several other family members’ birthdays this month. It’s the start of a new calendar year, but the end of the holiday break from homeschooling, sports, and the many errands required to meet the needs of a large family. I actually appreciate getting back into my routines with schooling, ministry and friends, but if I’m not careful, my life takes a fast ride down a steep slope into stress and busyness. For most of us, this is the push and pull of everyday life on our soul and spirit. However, if we don’t pay close attention to what’s really going on, we can stay on this surface level of push/pull and not see the deeper issues tugging at our heart.
A young woman at church asked me recently if I make New Year’s resolutions. I was struck with the thought that at this time in my life, I look at these kinds of questions very differently than I used to. When she asked me this question, and knowing a little about her life, a list of questions flashed through my mind to ask her. But just like the question, “How are you?” when you pass someone quickly at church, this was not the time or the place to delve into whatever was on this young woman’s heart.
I would have loved to sit with her on my front porch swing and ask her questions about her desires, needs, and fears that were focused on New Year’s resolutions but represented so much more.
After that Sunday, I went to see my niece in an adorable middle school rendition of Cinderella, and the words from one of the songs kept replaying in my head. Her character in the play was daydreaming of a better life, hoping for a different future with adventure and fun.
In my own little corner in my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere
and the world will open its arms to me.
I was struck by the thought that Cinderella’s dreams are not unlike ours today. The one thing we are all looking for in the New Year is Hope. A deep Hope that we can overcome obstacles in our lives like weight loss, organization, time management, addictions, relational struggles, rejection and the list goes on and on. Hope that our lives can be different from the present struggles and that our efforts can matter more. Hope for less stress and pain, and Hope for healings in a variety of areas. Resolutions are good, but can bring false hope if they are not rooted in God’s plans for us and His strength and leading to carry them out.
Jesus came to give us that Hope. The Hope that He can help us and be with us and give us strength for whatever we are facing this year. He wants to be The Hope. He doesn’t want us to find our Hope in a new situation, a new life, a new career, a new husband, or a new baby, even though these are longings that tug at the heart.
Just recently, the Lord reminded me of this in a very personal way. There was conflict in our marriage as I grappled with the loss of my sweet mother and wonderful friend. My poor husband couldn’t say or do the right thing. He couldn’t find the balance between too much space or not enough as I wrestled with my grief. I thought I had learned the lesson that my husband of 30 years was not the answer to my problems, and my Hope for healing was only in the Lord. However, in a very subtle way the enemy had me believing that his experience with loss would be the most help to me as I dealt with my sadness. The back-story is that 12 years ago my husband’s brother died in a very tragic way. It was a very painful time for our whole family because his brother was seven years younger and like a son to my husband. It took a long time, but the Lord healed many areas of my husband’s family through that loss, especially his relationship with his father. The Lord truly brought healing, hope, and restoration from a horrible situation.
The Lord showed me I had slowly started to believe a lie that my husband would be “my main support” or my Hope when my mother died. It sounds silly now, but Satan knows right where the fertile soil is for his lies. So when my mother was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and passed away last March, I had unknowingly put my Hope in my husband to get me through the process of grief and be there to comfort me through it, since he himself understood what I was going through from the loss of his brother.
One day in church three months ago, I was worshipping and feeling especially weepy from a long weekend of unmet expectations with my husband. As the pastor asked us to pause and listen to what the Lord was saying to us that morning, I sensed very clearly the Lord say, “I. AM. EVERYTHING. YOU. NEED!” When God speaks really clearly to your heart, it stops you in your tracks, and you usually know exactly what He’s talking about. I knew exactly!
The Lord was making it clear that I needed to look to Him, and to Him only, to get through my grief. I was not to look to my husband to be my savior; he was not the answer. The Lord wanted me to look to Him first, and only then allow others to minister to me. As I repented from that lie, I was able to let my husband off the hook, and the tension we had been experiencing ended. I was able to receive the comfort he could offer, because my heart was being filled up and comforted by my one and only Savior Jesus. This is true for us all. When we uncover lies we believe, we experience deeper intimacy with the Lord, and are able to receive what only He can give.
As I mentioned in my initial column, I grew up celebrating and embracing the holidays and symbolism of the Jewish faith. Interestingly, the Jewish calendar starts with the month of Nissan, which coincides roughly to mid-April in our western calendars, and begins with the celebration of Passover. The Jewish New Year begins with a focus on thankfulness; thanksgiving for all God has done for them and especially for the way God “passed over” the Israelites when they were delivered from Egypt. The Jewish tradition of starting the New Year with thanksgiving is a tradition we can learn from today. What a beautiful reminder for us to start our year with thanksgiving for what the Lord has already done. In remembering what God has already done for us in the past, it frees us to receive Hope for the future. Allowing Hope to grow deeper as we remember His many mercies.
If I eventually talk with the young woman, who asked me about making New Year’s resolutions, I plan to share with her the questions I ask myself this time of year. Not resolutions I’ve made and couldn’t keep, but a continuing dialogue about my future and hope.
- Lord, what is Your vision or leading for me this year?
- Is there anything hindering me from moving forward and experiencing freedom?
- Are there any lies I believe about change in these areas?
- Where am I putting my Hope right now?
Thankfully, we don’t have to live like Cinderella either, just hoping and waiting for change. Many promises in the Bible point to God’s goodness towards us. His written Word and still small voice are ever building into our hearts His Hope for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
Hope & Shalom in 2015,