The New Year means different things to us each year depending on what is happening in our life. Sometimes we find it exciting and joyful because there is a new baby, marriage, a new home or a new job. Other times we find it frightening and painful because we face the death of a loved one, a divorce, a job loss, a home, material possessions, financial disasters, an empty nest, or the loss of health. Either way, whatever our outlooks, we are all starting on a journey into the unknown. One that God Himself is sending us on. If you are reading this then you are still here and have 365 unchartered days before you. The years that start with hope and promise are, what can I say; they are wonderful! But those that begin with pain and heartache, now those are another story. Mine as you know is the latter as are many of yours for whatever trials you are facing in 2014. These are the ones I want to focus on. I am reminded of Abraham in Genesis 12:1. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”
God sent him on a journey and he didn’t have a clue where he was going or what he was supposed to do. He was leaving all that was familiar to him, his home, much of his possessions and his family. In Abraham’s day family meant everything. No one moved across the country to get a job. They were very close knit groups. He was saying goodbye to all that was comfortable and secure to him. This was no small task considering Abraham did this as a senior citizen! He was 75 years old! So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran” Genesis 12:4
Now you might be saying, “Yes, but he had a choice. He could say “no” to God.” He could have told God, “I don’t think so. I am too old, too tired, too set in my ways. . .” I am sure he could have come up with excuses just like all of us do. That ability originates with the “carnality package” we all come equipped with. So while to an extent, Abraham could have told God “no”. The reality is a true follower of God, you really “can’t” tell Him “no.” He went willingly with no hesitation and we should too. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” John 10:4, 27
Here we are like Abraham heading out on a journey that we have no idea where we are going, what is going to happen, and what will be expected of us. Considering the fact that we are beginning wounded from some adversity from last year can make the trip rather frightening. The unknown always is. We know “who” fear comes from yet it can still get a grip on our hearts. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
One fear we have is being alone. I understand this one well. I am 60 years old and this is the first time in my life I have ever been alone. We can be surrounded by people and still feel alone. Troubles have a way of isolating us. My Heavenly Father is not sending me on my way this year with just a pat on the head. He is coming with me every step of the way, every moment of the day. As a matter of fact He is ahead of me, as He knows every detail. The unknown is only unknown to me! “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 He promises me no matter what I “feel” He is with me, forever.
We may fear being in financial or material need. For almost 42 years I looked to Jerry to provide for me. After his death the fear came, “Who will take care of me now?” The electrical impulses of my brain had not even finished sending the message when I realized: all I needed had always come from God, even though he worked through Jerry. God provided for us in all ways. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Matthew 6:25, 30
God is telling us, “I have you covered. Your needs will be met.” I can honestly say I have never done without what I truly need. Yes, I have done with less, much less, but never deprived of my basic needs. I think a close examination would reveal this is true for all of us.
Venturing into the unknown makes us feel vulnerable and exposed, like all the boogey bears and monsters under the bed are out to get you. I can relate to the fear of being unprotected. With Jerry by my side, I never was afraid of the noises in the night, walking in a dark parking lot, or being harmed by anyone. I knew he would always protect me, but my ultimate protection then and now comes from God. Bumps in the night that make my dog growl, need not be a concern because the Lord watches over me all through the night. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Where ever I go, whatever I do, He has special heavenly escorts guarding me.
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalm 91:11
The New Year will challenge us with new decisions and choices we must make. This can be quite intimidating. I know it is for me. There has not been one major decision since we married, that Jerry did not guide and help me with. I won’t lie; it’s been scary with just the few I have had to make thus far. “Will I make the right one? Is there anything I am overlooking? How will I know for sure what to do?” It’s very simple; all I have to do is ask God for wisdom! “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5 How wonderful that God cares about all concerns in my life, from the smallest to the largest! He longs to give me direction in every step I take, and all He asks is that I trust Him completely. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
As you enter this New Year, are you still hurting and stinging from your losses this past year? Is your heart filled with dread wondering; “What else will happen? What other heartaches will I face? What other sacrifices will I be required to make?” God’s promises can answer each and every one of our concerns.
I need not be afraid of anything the future holds.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? “ Psalm 27:1
When I do fall into fear’s vicious trap, the Lord will rescue me.
“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
Should I find myself weak and wounded from the battle, and I don’t think I can make it, the Lord will strengthen me.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10
Even in the moments I succumb to the enemy’s lies and wonder if God has deserted me, leaving me to be destroyed, He assures me this cannot happen.
Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Deuteronomy 31:6
No matter how my circumstances appear, my Heavenly Father only wants to bless me and bring about the best for me. I may not understand His ways but His plans for me are perfect.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11
Is your world turned upside down right now? Mine is. But we serve a God who specializes in turning worlds right side up. We cannot check the “I do not want to participate box” as much as we would like to. He has lessons for us to learn and growth for us to accomplish. My small earthly mind cannot comprehend His purposes that fit into eternity, not this small wisp of time we call life.
In all my tears and distress, He speaks to me. (Narita) “Be still, and know that I am God:” Psalm 46:10a Great loss requires us to learn to trust Him in a greater way; many times, a way that we could never have conceived had we not lost something so dear. I know I must develop a new and even closer relationship with Him. One I never could have, had I not lost my earthly companion. I do not have the victory yet. No, I am deep in the midst of my battle now. I will not pretend. I am brokenhearted and faint. I am simply sharing my “spiritual weapons” the Lord has given me. I am fighting the good fight and I wait upon the Lord as He commands.
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” Psalm 27:14
My heartfelt prayers go to each of you that have entered this New Year with devastating losses. I pray His strength and comfort for each of you, and awareness of His loving presence. He will see us through.
Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, January, 2014