Happy New Year (a few days late)!
I’ve been thinking a lot about fresh starts and new beginnings, but this time of year I also am so heavily burdened for the people who are stuck in situations that a new year isn’t going to change.
A few years ago I found myself avoiding a lot of social media around the holidays & new year. Pictures & highlight reels were triggers for me as I reflected on my life, disappointed with all that year had broken. The last thing I wanted to do was go check out my Best9 or see the Year in Review that Facebook had so kindly assembled for me to remind me that my year was less than gracious to me. I remember that feeling of hopelessness when you’re stuck in a place you never imagined, unable to see the hope that a new year, even one full of suffering, can bring.
Listen...I know you’re all WOW BRITTANY, Cynical much? Someone get this girl a cup of coffee and some sunshine!! But I promise you, I'm quite the opposite! Just let me flesh this out.
You see, many of us have bought the lie that once we trust in Jesus, we’re going to be just fine. Suffering isn’t going to come our way. After all, if we make smart choices and go to church and do the right things, what can go wrong? If we hit a bump in the road, all we have to do is say the name of Jesus and it will get better. The illusion of control comforts us during joyous seasons, but during trials and tribulations it's damning.
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but for many, 2017 will be painstakingly difficult. Your year might get better, but it might not. Your child diagnosed with cancer might not be healed. The parent you’re now the caretaker for might get worse. Your marriage might have a really devastating year. You might not have the bravery to RUN from that toxic relationship you’re in. That loved one you lost isn’t coming back. The child you’ve been praying for might not be conceived. And 2017 might not bring that relationship or job you’ve hoped for. And yet, in spite of all of the hard things 2017 might have in store for you (or the WONDERFUL THINGS), I want to tell you that 2017 could be the year that you cling to God like you never have before. It could be the year that grace permeates your every move and your faith comes alive.
I was reading a Bible study on 2 Timothy and came across this quote,
“Desperation can fertilize our soil and tears can water our seed like no ease could ever hope to.” - Beth Moore
I have to tell you, this was so true of my own life. When my life got desperate, all the cliches I used to say out of habit became lifelines. What I had always professed to be true, now HAD TO BE TRUE in order for my faith to survive suffering. Phrases that I used to say so flippantly when talking about others’ pain like “God is close to the brokenhearted,” became scripture that I would cry out to God in desperation. “God, you said you’re near to the brokenhearted. I NEED YOU TO BE NEAR. I need you to be faithful and true.”
And He was. Is. And forever will be.
Suffering was a catalyst for me. It catapulted me to the feet of Christ and it has kept me there. So here’s my advice to those who find themselves in a year that isn’t anything they hoped for and expected. It isn't a fix all, but it's a simple phrase for you to carry with you through those low moments.
Look and Live.
Look to Christ. Cling to what He’s done for you and what He continues to do. Let that consume you instead of despair. Read about it. Sing about it. Pray about it. Write about it. Hang it on your walls. Have friends who will speak it over you and remind you of who you are in Christ & who He is to you. Christ is your great and mighty redeemer and nothing is too far from his reach. Saturate your life with that truth.
When life gets hard? Look to Christ.
When you’re at the end of your rope? Look to Christ.
When you cannot go any further? Look to Christ.
When you are so angry and hurt and desperate? Look to Christ.
When you have no place to go? Run to Christ.
When your world falls apart? Look to Christ, the source and perfecter of our faith.
Dear one, He is able to carry your burden. You do not have to do it perfectly; He already has so that you can live freely. Which brings me to my second piece of advice.
The story you’re living right now has purpose. You might not believe it. Or maybe you do and it still infuriates you that THIS is a part of your story (trust me... I get that). But at some point, you have to stopping fighting the storyline and START LIVING IT. That heartache, the loss, the despair, the pain, the shame. Don't put a bandaid on your pain to hide the scar, LIVE through it. It’s your story to own, and live, and to one day tell.
Get help, find a good counselor, start taking care of yourself (fuel your body with sleep and good food), and LIVE. Live your story well. Live it imperfectly, walking every step clinging to Christ. Because if you’re looking to Christ, and fighting to LIVE a life that is rooted in Him, there is no storm you’ll face that will be able to sink your ship. There will be days when it might not feel that way, but friend, I can promise you that the Christ you cling to is a GREAT redeemer. There is nothing too broken that He can’t fix. There is no heart too sick for His healing hand. No sinking ship He can't sustain. No suffering is left purposeless & nothing goes unused. He is close to the brokenhearted, and one day the God who walks beside us through the fires of life will extinguish the furnace of suffering for good.
This is why we can enter a new year with hope, even when our circumstances seem hopeless.
Whatever 2017 brings, you can still experience deep, unshakeable joy found in knowing Christ... even on your darkest night... especially during your darkest night. So today I am praying that for you. I am praying for those of you walking into 2017 with heavy hearts and dark skies ahead. I am praying that you will find rest in the one who is faithful and true and that in 2017 you'll find the resolve to LOOK & LIVE, regardless of what the year brings.