I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions. My life offers endless opportunities for failure without setting myself up and I’m proud to say I’ve been quite successful in taking advantage of them. I jest, but truthfully I see more value in reflecting on the past rather than attempting to resolve the great unknown. We can’t exactly know where we are going until we fully grasp where we’ve been so reflecting back just makes more sense to me. So far, 2017 has been the most soul searching, faith stretching, heart piercing, and flesh breaking year for me to date. I do not look forward to 2018 being “better” because I’m not convinced that this year was really that bad. I'm positive that both better and worse years lie ahead, but this has been what I believe to be the beginning of a tough spiritual journey. We often hear that trials are blessings in disguise, but I’m starting to think that blessings can be trials in disguise, as well. God works in mysterious ways, right? Regardless of the difficulties we face, whether physical or internal, I believe God can and will use them to teach us more about himself if we let Him. I’ve learned so much, but 1 Corinthians 13 really hits home and provides the perfect outline to focus my thoughts and reflections. Verse 9 and 13 says, “Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture…..Three things will last forever- faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love.”
Faith - A few years ago I experienced a difficult season that drew me closer to God, and He was faithful to teach me and grow me through it. Once the weight of that heavy season lifted, I naively thought that was it. I thought I'd passed the test. I was content with my new found understanding of what it means to walk with God through the messiness of life trusting in only Him. This was all good, of course, but I was wrong about one thing. I was nowhere near finished. I now believe it was merely stepping stone preparing me for yet another difficult journey of faith. This year taught me what it really means to trust God alone. And I mean REALLY alone. I cannot trust what I feel, what I think, or what others believe. My faith must rest 100% on the truth in God's word and there's so much peace in that resolve. Also, I used to believe that trials and temptations require a fence of protection from the world or the enemy, but God never intended us to live inside a fence. We cannot safeguard our hearts and minds by building unnecessary barriers. God never asked us to do that and in my experience they're ineffective. He does ask us however, to take up our cross and walk a narrow and difficult road fully armed for battle and there's so much more freedom walking on that road than there is standing behind a fence.
Mathew 7:13-14; 1 Peter 2:16-17
"For you are free, yet you are God's slaves so don't use your freedom as an excuse to do evil." 1 Peter 2:16
Hope - In my early twenties God showed me how I was hoping in the things of God rather than God himself. It's so tempting to place hope in something physical, even good things like a loving, Godly spouse, healthy kids, a strong church family, or loyal friendships. Although it's all good things to hope for, none of this lasts and will fail or end at some point. I still agree with this, but when we experience pain in relationships be it with a friend, a spouse, or a church family it's tempting to self-protect by creating distance between ourselves and others. We might even disconnect emotionally cutting off ties with others in the name of putting our hope only in Christ, when in reality it's just an effort to avoid further pain. I do believe that sin breaks relationship and some aren't meant to be salvaged, but this year I've realized that even when placing my hope in the Lord, there is value in the gifts of Godly relationships. They should be desired, cultivated, nurtured, and enjoyed, just not desired more than God. It's OK to hope FOR the pleasure and comfort of community, as long as our eternal hope remains IN Jesus. God used countless relationships in His word to outline his plan to redeem us through His son so it makes sense that He'd continue doing that today with you and me. Regardless of our situations, married, single, childless, or "child-full", we must remember that there will always be some level of joy and some level of pain no matter where we find ourselves in this life. I find rest in a healthy balance knowing my hope lies in eternity with Jesus while I enjoy whatever gifts He allows me until He calls me home. Genesis 2:18, Psalm 33:20-22, 41 and 42, Hebrews 10:23-25
Love- Most of my adult life I have viewed love as a choice versus a feeling. Although I still agree with that, recent circumstances have made me see it not merely as a choice, but also a weapon. If the word of God is a love letter to His children and is also referred to as the sword of the spirit, then real love must cut deep. This long, sharp blade was not intended to wage war against another; rather, it should be used to cut away every ounce of flesh that seeks to suffocate the spirit of God inside of me. True love denies self satisfaction in order to preserve what God plans to use for His glory. The enemy may win my mind and my heart at times, but he cannot touch my soul. It's not on the market anymore. It's signed and sealed awaiting delivery. I belong to God and because of that I refuse to let the enemy dictate my actions. So is love a choice? Absolutely! And I choose to love fiercely like my life depends on it, because it does. 1 Peter 4:8-11
"...love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8