Little waterfall at Glen Eyrie

Celebrating what never changes

The beginning of a new year is usually a time to celebrate change. People make their resolutions so that they can lose weight or get healthy or get organized or rearrange their lives. And that’s great. I did that. I’m working on that right now.

I know 2011 wasn’t the worst year ever, but it sure wasn’t the best. So I join the rest of the world in saying goodbye to 2011 and welcoming 2012 with open arms.

Change is good. It stretches us. It helps us learn how to be flexible. It makes us realize that nothing stays the same and we have to grow up some time.

Little waterfall at Glen Eyrie
Little waterfall at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

But no matter how many new years come and go, there is one thing that will never change. And that is explained simply in Hebrews 13:8 in today’s verse of the day.

 
Hebrews 13:8
 
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
 
And I don’t know if that brings you as much comfort as it does me. But to me, that’s huge. Because if Jesus never changes, the rest of the world can turn upside down on its head, and that means my life can still be stable. I can still be stable and confident and sure. Because Jesus isn’t going to change.
 
His plans for me won’t change. His hopes for me won’t change. His love for me won’t change. He won’t change.
 
And that means, if my situation changes, it’s not because He doesn’t love me anymore. Or it means that if my life goes crazy, His dreams for me haven’t changed. Because He never changes.
 
If my life goes crazy or turns upside down or looks like it’s going in a direction I don’t know how to adjust for, it just means that life has happened. Life happens to everyone. Everyone struggles. Everyone hurts. Everyone fails. Everyone falls. That’s life in our broken, imperfect world.
 
I have no illusions about 2012. The way the world is going now, I truly believe that our lives are going to get more difficult before they get better. And I have accepted that. Know why?
 
Because Jesus doesn’t change.
 
He has plans for me that are good, designed to give me a hope and a future. He knows what He’s doing. He has seen His dreams for me come to fruition, and He promised that He wouldn’t ever leave me.
 
So when my life comes crashing down around me (and I’m sure it will happen at some point), I’m not going to give up on Him. I’m not going to despair. Because Jesus has loved me since before time even started. Can we wrap our heads around that? Jesus loved all of us before God even invented the concept of time. Jesus has loved us all since before the beginning. Adam’s sin didn’t change that. Satan’s intentions can’t change that. Our own self-destructive attitudes and ideas can’t change that. Because nothing changes Jesus.
 
He is the same as He was yesterday. He is the same as He will be tomorrow.
 
And that means He knows what He’s doing. So in the hard times I experienced in 2011 and the difficult situations I’m sure are coming in 2012, I’m going to cling to the fact that Jesus isn’t going to waver in His promise and in His love.
 
At a time of year where it’s acceptable to celebrate change, I know I’m glad to be able to celebrate something that won’t.
Sunrise behind the clouds at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

When a good question becomes a time waster

As 2011 comes to a close, it’s natural to look forward to the new year. People will be making resolutions, mainly revolving around losing weight. Some people will make resolutions to work harder to finish something they started years ago or to start something completely new. And that’s good. We all need goals and dreams, though many folks won’t follow through no matter how good intentioned they are.

But as another year winds down, I think we should take the time to look backward instead of forward.

Looking backward isn’t always productive because it depends on your perspective. And generally speaking, I don’t recommend looking backward at all. Because it’s easy to get caught in the regret trap, where you can see now the things you wish you would have done or how you wish you would have done something differently. But you can’t change the past, and regret is a useless thing to feel for a long period of time.

But there is one reason we need to look back, and David stated it quite well in today’s passage, Psalm 103:1-2.

1 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
      with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
 2 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
      may I never forget the good things he does for me.

People are forgetful creatures. We do great when everything is going well, but when something goes wrong and we lose the security we think we had, we blame God. Or we get angry at God. Or we become convinced that God no longer cares about us. Or we give up on God, believing that He must not want the best for us after all. Or that He doesn’t exist.

Okay. Well. Stop.

Because when everything was going fine and all was right in the world, God was good. Only when life takes a turn for the worst do people start feeling abandoned and like God doesn’t care. And once you go down that road — the path of blaming God for the perceived injustices in your life — people don’t seem to be able to drag themselves out of it. And I think it’s less of a God issue and more of a person issue.

Because we think we know better than God.

I know I do. Deep down inside myself, my first inclination when things go wrong is to sink into depression and self-pity and complain about why God lets bad things happen to me. But oftentimes our first inclination isn’t the right inclination. And the moment I start feeling that way, I try to stop. Not because it’s wrong, though.

It’s not wrong to question God. It’s not wrong to wonder why. It’s not wrong to seek an explanation. But those responses waste time. And time is something we don’t have a lot of. And when I look back over my life, I see many examples of times that I knew God was telling me to do something and I waited around demanding a clearer sign. Or I waited to act because I wanted Him to confirm the things I thought He wanted me to do. Or I waited because I wanted to understand why He was testing me. And when I look back on my responses to His calling, I am appalled at the amount of time I wasted.

Not saying that God didn’t eventually use me to accomplish great things. But it took me a long time to get my feet moving. And in the time it took me to get moving, I could have accomplished so much more.

But regretting the things I didn’t do or didn’t finish or didn’t notice is a waste of what time I have now. Because I can’t change it. All I can do is vow not to let those things slip by again. I can promise God that I won’t drag my feet when He tells me to do something, no matter how crazy it sounds. And that when He lets difficult things come into my life, that I won’t question.

I understand that I can question, but I’m going to. Because the sooner I get through the testing, the sooner I can learn what He needs me to learn and move on to the next thing. And then when I look back on my life, I will see that I didn’t waste time trying to understand what God was doing. I just did it. And that way, I won’t forget.

When I encounter a trial, I won’t just sit and ask why; I’ll go through it. I won’t lose time that could have been spent doing something else. I won’t ask why so many times that I forget why I’m experiencing the trial to begin with. And then I will be able to point back to the time when I learned something from the troubles in my life. They won’t just be passing woes that I experience over and over again, pinning me down in a black hole I can’t climb out of. The struggles in my life will have meaning because I know I’m going to learn something — and I know that God is going to keep working even if I can’t see him. 

That’s my hope for 2012. 2011 has been a hard year. I can’t say it’s been the hardest, and I can’t say that I’ve struggled more than other people. Because I have a job and I have a family and I have friends and I have a car and I have a church and I have a house and I have food. So that probably puts me in the top one percentile of the world as far as wealth and provision and comfort.

But I do have a bad memory. And I often forget how faithful He is to me. And I want that to change. May I never get so bogged down in the trials of the present that I forget what He did for me yesterday or what He promised to do for me tomorrow.