A new year is here. And while for many the new year is ushered in with noisemakers and sparkling drinks, there are many people who close the door on 2015 with sorrow. Many who open the door to 2016 with anxiety and trepidation.
Last night we attended a party celebrating the new year. Good food, conversations with friends, adorable kids with noisemakers– and a heavy heart.
We found out yesterday that a good friend has a tumor in his brain. Tomorrow we attend the funeral for a baby who passed away due to complications from oxygen loss during pregnancy. Other friends and acquaintances have lost husbands or brothers or small children, are enduring the pain of an ending marriage, or are staring down months of uncertainty and change.
Only a handful of months ago we lost our son in a seemingly meaningless way– a knot in his cord restricted blood flow and took his life quickly and unexpectedly.
Then, as we still were mourning James, we found out we are expecting again. We had an ultrasound before Christmas which revealed the comforting news that our baby was growing well, but also a different potential concern. Joy, sorrow, hope, and, more recently, fear.
I have struggled deeply with fear these past couple of months. Losing a child is just one of the events that can highlight how powerless we often are to control what(who) is near and dear in our lives.
Fear is a suffocating sort of pain, crowding out all other thoughts in a moment of quiet solitude. It is no respecter of persons or plans. It finds a opening and makes itself at home–a guest unwelcome and yet stubborn to evict.
This, however, is not going to be the year of fear. I do not make many resolutions, but I am making this one.
Overcoming fear may not be the easiest thing we do this year, but it is possible. Taking each moment as it comes, we can choose to dwell on what is true and resist being taken captive by dread or outcomes that may never occur.
Like any good resolution, this one has a plan.
1. Do not count as certain what is not.
Before my pregnancy with James, I took it for granted that a pregnancy means a baby nine months later. I knew this was not the case for many, including close friends, but for me, I figured if we made it past the “safe mark” and into the second trimester then everything would be fine.
God is clear in His word, though, that we do not hold our lives or anyone else’s in our hands. This is just one part of a long list of things we do not have ultimate control over.
We cannot control every friend that our children choose, or if the market means our house will sell quickly, or how many times the stomach bug will hit our families this season.
When we begin to accept our limited ability to determine both all the insignificant and significant events that shape our lives, we begin to unburden ourselves with a weight we were never intended to shoulder.
Instead, we hold things loosely and look to the One who upholds all things by the word of His power.
Which brings me to the second step in the plan…
2. Know the Lord.
Simply realizing our impotence and finitude would mean very little in overcoming fear if we stopped there. If anything, it might make us strive harder to wage war against germs and seek to micromanage even more details.
But, if we can come to the place where we acknowledge our weakness, and then turn to our gaze to where all the power lies, then we are getting somewhere.
Yesterday I was working on our homeschool plans for the remaining half of our school year. Part of our lessons include scripture memorization, and so I was compiling a list of verses for my boys to learn. Over and over again, God commands His people not to fear, but to trust and remember that help comes from Him.
It is in our nature to fear. It is a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that we question the future and whether or not everything will be alright. It is normal, but wrong to pitch a tent and stay there.
Our limits are meant to draw us to the limitless One. Our compassion, our desire to protect, even our longing for joy and love– these are given by God to teach us His nature.
He is compassionate.
He is faithful.
He is strong.
He desires good things.
This is the One who holds the future, and it is for this reason that we need not fear.
3. Long for heaven.
Friends, the best is yet to come, and this is the best news we can give anyone.
Whether your life has been smooth sailing recently or you feel battered down by grief and anxiety, there is a hope that stands above it all.
Fill your heart and mind with the beauty and promises that await those who love the Lord.
The night will end and the sun will rise again. Jesus, who is Himself our reward, will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death. No mourning. No pain.
He will make all things new.
We cannot know what this year will bring into our lives. But I can say that if you put your hope in God, you have nothing to fear. He will meet you there in the beauty, the ordinary, the mess, and the sorrow.
Look ahead at 2016 with confidence, friend. Not because you are certain it will be all good. But because you are certain that God will.