In business, it’s custom to write an annual report – the purpose of which is to let your shareholders know what happened the year before and what the plans are for the future. Although, my work experience was primarily in privately-owned businesses (and therefore an annual report wasn’t necessary) the year end was still an important time for us. It was a time that we would rush to complete orders to help make the year as profitable as possible.
Since I no longer work in a corporate setting, I took a different approach to the end of this year. Although it’s not something that normally characterizes me, I finished this year with a burst of inactivity. As you may have noticed, I didn’t post new blogs, and I also didn’t fill my calendar with things to do and places to be. Instead, I spent some time reflecting on this last year year and my hopes for the future.
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you probably know that this past year wasn’t an easy one. This was for a variety of reasons, including the massive stroke that my father-in-law experienced, the passing of my own dad, and other grief, plus the “normal” travails of life. It was a year that I don’t long to repeat. As my sister so eloquently tweeted, “If 2010 had a face, I’d punch it” – it’s a sentiment I can definitely appreciate.
Yet despite the hardships of 2010, it was a good year. It was good because I learned lessons that maybe can’t be learned through anything but hard times. And while I don’t relish the hard times, I do appreciate the lessons. So, to start off 2011, I wanted to share these lessons with you:
1) God is near the brokenhearted. – The truth of Pslam 34:18 was shared with me by a dear friend after my dad went to be with Jesus. It was a truth that I clung to in the days and months that were to follow. And it was a truth that I saw manifest in my own life. I experienced God’s presence and His provision in ways that I hadn’t appreciated before. I saw His hand at work – whether through the comforting word of a friend, the remarkable way in which my mom’s needs were taken care of while she was still in Hawaii after my dad passed, or simply in the confidence He gave me of my father’s new Home. He was near to us. And while we don’t understand the reasons why this year was so tough, we are incredibly grateful that He walked through it with us.
2) A community of committed believers is a precious gift – Through the daily and the momentous trials that we experienced over this past year, we had believers who walked the road with us. Some of these were dear friends, others of them were people we barely knew. Whether it was the thousands of prayers that were lifted up on our behalf, the phone calls and text messages of those who checked in, or the people who would come to our home to share in our grief with us, we experienced what it meant to be part of the body of Christ in new ways. And we are so grateful that in the midst of the pain, God provided people that were willing to help shoulder the burden.
3) Never underestimate the blessing of a meals ministry – This may seem like a trite response, but really, this was a huge lesson for me. I had participated in the meals ministry of the church we attend, but had never been a recipient. I realized what a practical and appreciated gift the provision of a meal is for those who are in need. It meant that there was one less thing we had to be concerned with; it meant we had more time to deal with the myriad of details that came with each trial we endured. To all of those who have ever provided a meal for someone in need – thank you. And let me just assure you – it makes a tremendous difference.
4) Prayer is powerful – This may be one which seems obvious to committed Christians, and although I already knew the impact of prayer, we experienced anew during this last year. And this wasn’t because we were given everything we asked for – in fact, most of the time, we weren’t. But it the midst of our heartbreak, we received the blessing of knowing that we were being prayed for, and that what was happening in our lives was the result of God’s design. I’m convinced that the reason our family was able to continue to praise God in spite of our grief and hurt, was because of the prayers of other people. If you are a follower of Christ, please keep praying. Not just for our family, but for those who you know that are hurting or in need. You may never know how God is using those prayers, but trust me, He is.
5) God is good. All the time. – This year has been a hard one, but God’s goodness has been seen through it. This year has been challenging, but God’s faithfulness has endured. His character does not change because of our circumstances. And in the midst of despair, He is there – actively working to bring about His purposes for the good of His precious children.
I don’t wish to repeat 2010, but I’m grateful for it. And I’m grateful for the lessons that God continues to teach me, until the day of His return.