As another year draws to a close, too many mixed emotions bubble up in all of us.
We are all rejoicing over someone or something in some way.
We are all hurting and mourning something or someone.
We are all worried about something or someone.
We are all wondering what a new year might bring and praying for something better than at least one part of the past year.
Marriages. Adoptions. Births. New careers. Fresh starts. Children’s successes. Our successes. Hope-filled plans. Medical cures. Graduations. Family reunification. Improved finances. Vacations. Beloved ones leaving us too soon. Lost hopes. Health concerns. Divorces and separations. Children’s failures. Shattered dreams. Ending careers or miserable jobs. Difficult financial situations. Challenging moves. Test results. Family issues. Global insecurity. Facing the not-too-distant and irreplaceable loss of loved ones.
Every year is always packed to the brim and into overflowing with good things, incredible things, hard things, pretty much impossible things. Every. Single. Year.
Perhaps it is just the promise of new beginnings that ignites with the firework-strewn midnight skies, the hope for new starts that will rise like a glory-wrought new dawn of a new year.
Perhaps it is too the ends of what we believe to have been a year that went awry, down the wrong path, a wayward journey that led us away from the hopes and promises we so desperately wished and prayed for at last new year’s break.
And then, perhaps, it is in seeing the quiet miracles that did happen, anyway and in spite of all of the mistaken steps and the pain-filled moments.
Perhaps it is still the finding of hope in even the most despairing of times that may salvage yet another year of mixed emotions and messy memories.
So here’s the thing that we all have to remember, as nearly impossible as it can be…
We were never guaranteed an easy walk through life. We were never promised a perfect new year or a season of overwhelming awesomeness.
But God never pretended that the journey would not be pain-filled or fear-full.
And God also never declared that the journey would be hope-less.
He is Hope.
He is Love.
He is Peace.
He is who He says He is.
He is God With Us, Emmanuel.
And He is Hope and Love and Peace and Emmanuel, with us.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you[…]
Do not be afraid, for I am with you[…]
This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:1b-2, 4a, 5a, 16, 18-19).
We create promises and hopes and dreams for ourselves and our new years that are oftentimes separate from God’s. We decree fresh starts and resolutions that just may not take us along the same journey God has designed for us to walk with Him.
And sometimes, that leads us to disappointment and frustration and sorrow and pain. Sometimes that leads us to anger with God or distance from God for seemingly allowing immeasurable hurt and irreplaceable loss and unimaginable conflict.
But that is not what He wants or desires or plans. And God’s ways may also be different from our ways or visions or hopes. Not necessarily easier or less painful, but different and redeemed.
For that is the quiet miracle that can be found in every year, in all situations.
Sometimes it takes much more hindsight to understand such a miracle, such a gift, that is always present in even the most brutal and crushing of times and in the most beautiful and blessed of times.
God is redeeming it all, is proving His devotion to you in simply being present with you, is loving you even when you push Him away because of your hurt, is restoring you even when you’re your most broken, is freeing you from your isolation and desolation.
God loves you in your most battered and bruised state, upholds you in your most shredded emotions, walks beside you when you can no longer make it on your own. That is the quiet miracle that is always present. Love.
Perhaps our pictures of hope and our ideals of promise should look a little different for the new year.
Perhaps they should look a little more like love poured out on us and in us and through us, because we are all loved by God, our Hope, our Love, our Peace, our Emmanuel.
God is with us. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Always.