I hope Christmas was all you needed it to be and that the New Year brings ‘Shalom’, in all its fullness, to you and your families.
When I was 20, having just been diagnosed with a degenerative Neuromuscular condition, I went to our church’s New Year service. A lovely, well meaning older member wished me a happy new year and stated that the coming year would be much better for me. My temptation was to tersely reply with “What part of degenerative don’t you understand”. Thankfully for her, I wasn’t so brave in those days!
I was 20 years and 3 weeks old.
I was also facing losing my nursing career and struggling with lots of well meaning advice, bible verses and books being ‘thrown’ at me.
These were caring members of my church family who were just trying to help, doing their best to ‘fix’ my situation. They were saddened by my situation and doing their best to help.
But, it’s made me very wary of all those ‘power memes’ you now see all over social media. Wellbeing quotes designed to ‘empower’ you to keep going.
Except they don’t.
Sadly, around New Year these memes multiply! “Doing this will improve your life”, “Self care is the key!” And then the out of context bible verses that sound nice….but don’t really help.
If those memes were printed on paper, I’d want to tear them up or burn them!
It’s also made me wary of Christians declaring that “God is going to do a new thing”. If I remind them they said that last year year – and it didn’t happen, it’s usually my fault it didn’t happen….I didn’t have enough faith. (Now where have I heard that before!)
Therefore, I’m not one to make resolutions, I rarely have a ‘Word’ for the year. Or even a ‘Bible verse for the year’. When God has given me a word – I tend not to share it much.
Over this last two years of ‘pandemic’ I’ve found myself looking back a lot; something that often isn’t helpful, especially if you have a background like mine!
So, it was surprising that the Bible Gateway verse on New Years eve talked about not looking back in its opening lines: ‘Forget the things that happened in the past. Do not keep on thinking about them’.
I often say “I use my past to help others, but I refuse to let it influence my future”. I say it knowing that this isn’t always as easy as it sounds! Dwelling too long on the bad parts can often be the result.
The verse went on with the words I hate other Christians saying to me (usually out of context):
‘I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don’t you see it coming?’
These were God’s words to the people of Israel for a specific situation. Words we can still learn from and be blessed by, but we can’t ignore the context.
In this case some of the context becomes clear very quickly:
‘I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.’
This is nothing about taking away the difficulties we face in what ever form. This is about God making a way through them.
The desert is still there – the dry and empty land; but God is going ahead of us, giving what we need to help us through.
He sees you. He sees what you need.
When you have felt unseen by many, God has seen you.
When people have minimised what you face daily, God sees you, He’s walking ahead of you, He’s loving you and ‘making a way’.
If you want to pray about this, but struggle to find words to pray at the moment, try this:
Grab a glass of water. Sip it as you use these words (Adapt the words for your situation too).
Loving God, Thankyou that you have made a path and given us water in a dry land.
When I look back and reflect on the difficult things of the past, help me to then look at you and remember the blessings too.
Keep me from dwelling on the bad stuff in a way that would harm my heart, mind and soul.
Help me to follow in your footsteps as you make a way into the coming year – a way through the good and the bad.
Help me to see small things, that might be missed and unappreciated by others, as the new things you have given.
The bible verses quoted are: Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIrV)
PS: I was given two diaries for Christmas! So….I’m using one to write down 3 things I’m grateful for each day – a record of those little blessings we prayed about. Would you like to join me in doing that?