Tuesday, 18 June 2019

C Columns

Your Best Year - Are You Focusing on the Right Things?


By Bethany Riehl

January 1, 2018, I read a post by a comedian that said something along the lines of, “Shout out to everyone that read Genesis 1, started Whole30, and went to the gym today.”

I got a good chuckle out of that. How many of us spend the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day rehashing the last few months of over-indulgence and making lists of ways to be better in the new year? My list is already long — wake up earlier, eat more vegetables, watch less TV, leave my phone off for chunks of the day, etc. I hesitate to make a list at all because I rarely last beyond January 5. The two resolutions I have ever had stick? Reading through my Bible for the last few years, and in 2016 I joined a challenge to walk one mile each day for 45 days. I actually made it to June.

Because that one resolution was bite-sized and easy to keep, I decided to host a year-long resolution page for my readers last year. I sent out invites, set it up, wrote an opening post about having a new resolution theme each month to keep our momentum going. Those that joined me were told we would spend 2018 carving out new habits and accomplishing goals.

I don’t think I posted after February. So much for that year of resolutions. My poor readers.

So here we are. Another year. Another Christmas season behind us. I think most of us can’t help but come out of that season of reflection and joyful gluttony wondering how we can be better and feeling eager to get started right away with our plans. Especially so we can once again button our pants. But will we last past this week? This month? If our goal is to read through the Bible this year, will we make it to Exodus? What is it about January that we start out with such high ideals and aspirations only to sink back to our old ways by Valentine’s Day? Could it be that we are reaching for the wrong things?

Last January, I was sharing tea with a friend in her cozy living room. We were talking about our separate holiday experiences and she told me something her uncle, a man I greatly admire, had said to her. He said, “I think 2018 is going to be a great year.”

She and I drank in those words together. Talked them through, mulled them over. We held out our hearts to that proclamation, warming them in the hope they sparked. She, a widow with two young children, looking at another year without her partner in life,  lonely and over-burdened. Me, a woman whose husband has a disease that is consistently weakening him and changing our life.

We talked about the possible significance of her uncle’s words. What could they mean for us? Maybe my friend would meet someone or in some magnificent way her burdens would be eased. Maybe the Lord would show my husband and I a path to better financial security or bring healing to his body. Maybe her aunt and uncle would sell their business and retire in comfort. Our dreams were big and our hopes shone brighter than the twinkle lights we had recently packed away.

Eleven months later, on November 26, 2018, her uncle closed his eyes to this world and opened them in his forever home. He said good-bye to his wife, kids, grandkids, loved ones, and at long last embraced his Savior.

November 27 my friend texted me, “Remember when he said that 2018 was going to be great?”

I did. I hadn’t stopped thinking about it since I heard that cancer had invaded his bones. 

“He was right,” she texted.

I agreed with her and, my soul trembling with wonder, I looked back over the year.

It was a difficult one. My husband was not healed. He is worse.

My friend is still burdened and lonely. Possibly more so than before.

Her aunt and uncle did sell their business...but he’s not here to dance into those retirement years as they’d dreamed. And truly, if you knew this man, you know why it’s so empty here without him. He was a legend.

The incredible thing is that, regardless of the grief and jarring shock of his death, he was right:2018 was a great year. The absolute best in his life. Because November 26, 2018, he went home. At long last, the sinner was able to embrace his Savior. It is the best moment of all for anyone who believes.  

I’ve been mulling it over. The things he said. The dreams my friend and I shared because of them a year ago. The hopes that to many eyes were left to shatter. Oh, but how much higher are the Lord’s thoughts than our own. How much more He has in store for us than our little ideas and plans. He might not have eased our worldly troubles, but He was faithful to draw us closer to Him.

This year has great potential, as all do. If we remember Who to focus on, Who we belong to, Who holds it all in His hands...then our hopes will never be wasted.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) He speaks to us in shadows at times, words that won’t be evident until He shines His perfect light our way and in His timing. Instead of gym goals or social media fasts or extreme diets that fade away, maybe our eyes should be on Jesus. Just on Him. Let’s ask Him what He wants for us and pursue that with abandon.

How? Read Genesis 1...and keep going. Over and over and over again until that day when at last we are in His arms. Home.  

That will certainly be the best year ever.

Bethany Riehl loves to write stories and articles that explore the complexities of relationships and encourage readers in their relationship with Jesus. She joyfully serves in the children’s ministry at her church, teaches at a homeschool co-op, and drinks more coffee than necessary to keep up with her only-slightly-crazy life. She is the author of four Christian fiction novels and lives in Kuna with her spunky kids and very handsome hubby.

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