For many, 2016 has been a ridiculously rough year. There have been many shocking celebrity deaths, a divisive and controversial presidential election, several incidences of police brutality, an uptick in hate crimes and a general loss of morale by many. Many who started this year hopeful find themselves limping to the finish line. Their eyes are already on next year or four years from now. This year is a wash. The years of the Trump presidency are a wash. All we can do now is look forward to a new year.
2016 has been a year of breaking as much for me as it has been for many of you. I’ve lost family, job, relationships, security, benefits–you name it (Is that Shirley Caesar clip stuck in your head now, too? Sorry). If I’m not careful, I can miss all the good of this year focusing on the bad. And that would be a shame, because there has been so much good in the midst of the mourning:
- I had two speaking engagements where I was able to encourage women to get serious about God and pursue their dreams.
- My relationship with my dad has grown tremendously.
- God allowed me to use a hobby to help others and earn income while unemployed.
- God gave me clarity and began moving in areas I’ve prayed about for a long time.
- I’ve taken big leaps of faith this year.
In the valley, sometimes we don’t see how much progress we’ve made and ground we’ve gained. We are so busy fighting the enemy in front of us, we don’t acknowledge or celebrate the victory we have over the last enemy we fought. We can’t see how close we are to coming out of the storm, to being made to lie down in green pastures, to the restoring of our souls. We aren’t always exchanging our burdens for the rest Christ offers.
But the great thing about God is we don’t have to see. We can walk by faith. We don’t have to get to the mountaintop before we can see how the whole thing is going to play out; God has told us the end in His word. Christ invites us to rest in Him. He gives out rest like Oprah gives out cars–everyone in the audience of Christ gets rest!
The bible says that for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. He pushed through because He knew joy was on the other side of His suffering. It wasn’t a hope; it was a certainty. It’s not a hope for us, either. Joy is a certainty. We are to rejoice always. We rejoice when we suffer because we know what’s coming on the other side! We rejoice in good times because we know where we have come from, and we thank God for His grace toward us.
It’s hard to thank God when something you’ve handled so carefully and protected so fiercely is broken beyond repair. But when I remember what was on the other side of similar losses, I can rejoice in the knowledge God has something even better to give me.
In the midst of the hardship and brokenness of this season, I’ve learned to ask myself three questions: 1) Am I bare in this area or am I barren? 2) How can I glorify God in this season? 3)Where is the growth in this season?
If you can’t find anything to rejoice about in your life right now, I submit to you the thought you aren’t looking hard enough. If you see no growth in your life, you are no longer connected to the True Vine, Jesus Christ. Repent and be restored before it’s too late. Rejoice in the areas where you are bare or barren. God is about to do something wonderful in those areas. He’s about to show up as God. Go through it for the joy set before you, sweet sister.
I won’t wait for the mourning to be over to rejoice. I won’t wait until I see things getting better to believe God is working in the midst to bring about God for me because I love Him and am called according to His purpose. I will remember the joy set before me and endure my present circumstances with joy. I won’t look to this world or anyone or anything for joy; the world doesn’t have any to give. I won’t let anything that can’t give me joy take my joy. I will expect joy. I know joy will come. It’s a certainty and not a hope. Joy has already RSVP’d with pleasure. Joy will show up at the right place and the right time. I’m committed to meeting Joy there. I will endure. I will overcome. I will be fixed, forgiven and fortified. In Jesus name.
Erica D. Hearns