I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I’m of the mind that if there is something you need to improve in your life, you address it now. Putting off what you know needs to happen doesn’t serve you in the time you are waiting for the clock to click midnight on a specific date. Why put it off until tomorrow what you can start today?
I do believe, however, there is value in going into a new year with purpose. After 2018 being a particularly bad year, I asked God to give me a word of hope to focus on throughout the coming year, knowing that things weren’t going to get any easier (in fact, they got much worse). I have continued this practice since.
In 2019 the word was “Joy” and with it, Psalm 126:5.
Those who sow in tearsPsalm 126:5
shall reap with shouts of joy!
2019 ended up being a horrendous year. Finding joy in these hardships was a huge challenge but I believe God knew that I needed to keep Joy in my mind amidst these trials. I had experienced so much destruction that it was hard to go on. I cried out to God for mercy.
Without irony, in 2020 the word was “Reconstruction.” I sought a specific Bible verse for this and, in my search, I came up with more of a Biblical theme. As I prayed throughout my journey in the scriptures, I did find reconstruction in my life and my faith. I was brought back to the center of my faith – the truth of Christ’s Salvation, the reconstruction of our relationship with God. My prayer was answered.
So, I was surprised when, a few days ago, I was asking God to show me a word and He gave me “Steadfastness” with this passage from James:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4
This passage represents a culmination of the past few years. Needing to focus on the Joy amidst the trials I was facing (vs 2). Understanding that continuing on will make me complete in Christ (vs 4). It has been a messy gory battle, but I persevered. In my brokenness, I found steadfastness. WIth that, 2020 ended up being a great year for me personally.
Despite a global pandemic.
Despite national civil unrest.
Despite a heated and controversial presidential election.
Despite healing from my newly diagnosed manic-depressive illness.
I believe that because I had experienced crisis after crisis, with steadfastness through it all, in all it’s broken mess, gave me the strength to cope with everything that happened in 2020. I was able to focus on my Savior and use the brokenness in the world for good. I embraced being restricted to my home. I embraced the change in my job. I embraced the choice to not let what was going on around me hinder me from moving forward.
The steadfastness that I experienced last year was not of my own doing. I, myself, cannot be steadfast. Only God is truly steadfast. It is through his steadfast love that He made me steadfast. The Psalms cry out about God’s steadfastness:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.Psalm 13:5
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness. Psalm 26:3
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.Psalm 31:7-8
And as I go into 2021, while tentative about my life continuing on an uphill swing (as we’ve seen with the coronavirus pandemic, crisis can come out of nowhere and hit you hard), I want to continue to find hope that there are good things around the bend.
Romans 5:1-5 can be read parallel to James 1. The vocabulary matches up with the greek translations of both.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice [find joy] in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings [trials], knowing that suffering produces endurance [steadfastness], 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us [perfect, complete, lacking nothing]. [emphasis mine]
I’m starting to find joy in my sufferings. That’s not to say that I’m glad I went through these things. No one should ever have to endure what my family and I had to endure. But it’s a broken world. The joy I have found has come from the strengthening of my character and the deepening of my relationship with Jesus.
Things are still hard for me. There are residual effects from the hardships I’ve faced that continue to plague me. I am still wading through the mess but I am seeing hope on the horizon. I’m being called to steadfastness so that I can persevere to a better tomorrow. With God, there is a way.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2