Are you sure? – A Reflection on 2016

Merry Christmas friends and family!
img_9861Throughout November and December I’ve done some reflecting on this past year.  2017 awaits us – untouched and full of possibility like freshly fallen snow. But before leaping into the New Year and discovering the pain and the joy it will bring, I wanted to capture 2016. How could I sum up this year?

As I look back, I remember three little words that defined my journey through 2016 – Are you sure?

Are you sure that’s the best decision to make for Samuel?
Are you sure you should have moved back to VA?
Are you sure you’re worth hiring?
Are you sure you have value?
Are you sure God is who He says He is?
Are you sure God cares about any of this?
Are you sure John’s not tired of being married to you?
Are you sure it wouldn’t be better if you were married to someone else?
Are you sure Samuel is developing ok?
Are you sure you are doing everything in your power to help Samuel develop well?
Are you sure your faith is real?

Are you sure it’s worth having faith at all?

I believe it’s healthy to ask questions and dig deeper into your life – your belief/unbelief regarding God, your relationship with others, your long-term goals, your passions etc. All of those are worth analyzing and evaluating on a regular basis. How can we grow if we don’t seek to understand these things, right? But to marinate in a doubtful mindset only leads to frustration, second-guessing and missed opportunities.

When John and I decided to move back to VA after living in TX for 6 years, we were excited about all of the possibilities! All of the opportunities! We were certain God was behind this move and was urging us to take a step of faith. So we stepped. And what was “supposed to be” a 2-week mini-vacation living with my parents in central VA turned into an entire summer living in my childhood home, both of us unexpectedly unemployed and discouraged. It stung. I was angry about it. I was certain that we had misunderstood God’s hand of leading us back to VA. I felt that way because I thought stepping out in faith meant stepping into certainty. Stepping out in faith meant God would reward me, right? Easy peasy.

Here’s the thing about believing that God is real and Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of all mankind – when you believe that, you surrender. A life of faith is marked by surrender. It’s not the big decisions either that ultimately test and refine your faith – it’s what I like to call the “wednesday afternoon decisions” you make day after week after year to trust that God is present in your life, that He is at work, and that He cares. Do your daily, unseen choices and attitudes reflect a belief in a good God? This year I let my attitude err on the side of doubt and bitterness. I didn’t want to redirect my thoughts because I was quite comfortable sitting in my self-made pity-party surrounded by my familiar “friends” of apathy, selfishness and fear. Maybe you can relate?

I feel compelled to share this reflection because those three words “Are you sure?” can paralyze us or misdirect us. That was true of me on many occasions this year.

If you asked me those questions above, chances are you would receive different answers depending on how I feel at the moment, depending on what was happening around me. The compelling joy found in a life surrendered to the person of Christ comes from understanding that even in our fickle wavering, even in our uncertainties and our “it’s not supposed to be like this” moments, Christ does not change. He is sure. He is steadfast. He is present. He is real.

So even when I am not sure, Christ is and always will be! 

Hallelujah! There is no greater hope, friends. NO. GREATER. HOPE.

“We have this hope as an anchor for our souls.” – Hebrews 6:19 (paraphrase)

I’m looking back on 2016 and I see shaky steps of faith that I did take and I see steps that I was too scared, too lazy, or too selfish to take. I see a heart that has been filled with the fullness of the goodness of our God, and a heart that has been tossed to and fro by the wind and waves of circumstance. I am grateful for this past year. My knees have buckled in surrender even as my chin has been lifted by the One who promises peace, joy, and a kingdom everlasting for those who believe.

Soon the holidays will be over and January will give way to February and spring will come and summer will appear and so continues life as it always has. But what will you do with this coming year, friend? What will be your anthem?

For me? I’m trading my doubt for a promise. Even as I face uncertainty in 2017, I will wave this promise as a banner over my life. “He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Nothing and no one is wasted when surrendered to a God who is faithful and near to every person who desires His will be done more than he/she desires a perfect understanding of how it will be done.

I encourage you to take some time to reflect and prepare for the New Year before you head back to work on Tuesday or normal life resumes and routines are settled into. None of us knows exactly what this New Year will bring but we can choose what we bring into it.
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