As I think about the New Year, I just cannot resist the temptation to look back at 2016. I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but this past year was not my favorite. I’ve been looking forward to a new calendar!
However, I have no reason to think 2017 won’t be full of the very same challenges that kicked my tookus in 2016. Let’s be honest: our problems don’t belong to the calendar. They belong to us. And, they go with us wherever we go—new address, new relationship, new year.
There is a way to overcome our problems, though. That doesn’t mean our problems will go away, but it does mean we can overcome them. That distinction matters.
If we can be honest with ourselves, the first step to overcoming our problems is taking a long, hard look in the mirror. It might not be pretty—in fact, it might be downright horrifying—but if we cannot see ourselves rightly, we’ll never make it through Step Two.
For the person who believes in God, Step Two is prayer. Now, I’m not talking about prayers that sound more like begging, demanding, or bargaining. I mean prayers of repentance. Prayers that acknowledge God is The Answer: our Hope and our Help. If we’ve been trying to solve our problems ourselves, it’s time we remember that our lives are supposed to be in His hands. That is not a mystical or romantic notion. It’s surrender, and surrender is obedience.
THAT’S KINDA IT
Two simple steps. Repeat as needed. I know that may seem ridiculous, but I know it works.
There are many ways God has taught this simple method to me, but I will use one particular problem that dominated a good part of last year. It started out rather small, but it just began to escalate. There came a point when it had brought so much strife into my marriage that I really thought it might be the thing we couldn’t survive. I know you might be tempted to imagine what the problem was, but I can guarantee you won’t guess. It was something so mundane, but the Enemy caught me off-guard and found a way to use it against me, my husband, our marriage, our family, and the ministry. I would be ashamed to admit I allowed anything to do that, but Christ took my shame when I finally repented.
Repentance finally came when I “accidentally” caught a glimpse of my Self in the mirror. I had been praying about this problem, and showing me the truth about myself was God’s merciful answer. Oy! It was bad. The image I saw in the mirror was an ugly beast of selfishness and pride. That’s not me, I said to God. “Yes, it is,” He replied.
Well, it wasn’t exactly that moment I repented. I’m a stubborn fool, and it took a few more days of me hearing the most awful things coming out of my mouth. I think the Saxophone Player must have thought I’d lost my mind. I was so convinced, though, that The Problem was the problem. But, then it happened. I was standing in our bedroom, and I finally had to admit The Problem wasn’t the problem. What am I doing? I was the real problem. My sinful attitude. My arrogance. My disobedience. The thing I’d allowed Satan to use? Eh. It didn’t go away. It will be with us in 2017. Maybe, forever, but my sinful response and willingness to yield myself to the spirit of pride was the problem that was keeping God’s grace from abounding in the midst of The Problem.
You see, that’s what God’s about, my dear friends. His Holy Spirit abides with us, and is our ever-present help in trouble not to remove all the troubles of life, but to help us walk through them. God is not looking for us to live the perfect life one imagines their photogenic Facebook friends are living. He calls us to be perfect as He was perfect, which means we face trouble and sin not.
We serve a good and loving Father, generously giving without measure. However, He is a Father. That means He is willing to allow us to throw our tantrums and stumble as we learn to walk, because He knows it’s working something in us. He is just asking that we trust Him to know best. If The Problem remains, will we curse Him and blame Him and stop obeying? Or, will we continue to yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to do what He pleases, allowing whatever trouble or suffering He believes will best work His perfection in us? That is the kind of trust He longs for us to have in Him, and His commitment to us is to keep bringing us to those places where every weakness, every bit of doubt and unbelief, is challenged and worked out of us through repentance, surrender, and obedience.
And asking that the way you live will always please the Lord and honor him, so that you will always be doing good, kind things for others, while all the time you are learning to know God better and better. We are praying, too, that you will be filled with his mighty, glorious strength so that you can keep going no matter what happens—always full of the joy of the Lord, and always thankful to the Father who has made us fit to share all the wonderful things that belong to those who live in the Kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:11-12, TLB)
Happy New Year, my friends! I hope you and yours welcomed 2017 in health and safety, and I pray this new year brings you ever closer to the One who loves us enough to stick by our side—even through the temper tantrums of life. ❤