January 1, 2013

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” Psalm 72:18-19

This morning I have read many optimistic declarations for the coming year.  I think that it is wonderful that people are looking forward to a “great and amazing” 2013.  However, my sense is that many of these declarations are made in an almost mystical, power of positive thinking, type of manner.

What if you are not optimistic? Will your lack of positive thinking doom you?

What if 2012 has not been a “good” year as most would define it.  Last Sunday, my Church provided an opportunity for people to give testimonies of praise for what God has done for them throughout the year.  All of the praises were for God responding in  “good” ways.  There were no praises for the God’s peace in tragic loss of a child.  There were no praises for God’s strength while a spouse has to work away from home. There were no praises for God’s provision while being unemployed. There were no praises for God’s purpose when health is not restored. There were no praises for the “bad” things of unknown purpose and I know that there were some.  I almost gave a testimony to the “bad” things but fear of extemporaneous speaking in a new Church held me back.

I look back at 2012 and I am glad that it is gone.   I don’t look at this last year with fondness even though God has been so faithful to me and my family. My year feels like a period of grinding endurance.  I think it is a testimony that many may share.

I have not had to endure anything in comparison to some in 2012.  I have not experienced any deaths in my family; I have not been subjected to any violence; I have not been separated from my loved ones; I still have a home; I still have a job; I still have good relations with my family.  God has bestowed so many blessing upon me that I cannot even count them all.  Yet, I do feel like an Eeyore about 2012.  When I look at 2013, I feel like I am leaning into a harness preparing for a long pull.

What are we to do when we are not optimistic?

What is our response to struggles and disappointments when we lack understanding of their purpose?

When we don’t have answers, we must go back to what we do know.  We remind ourselves of the faithfulness of God; we remind ourselves of the goodness of the God; we remind ourselves that our treasures are not in this world; we remind ourselves that our Father knows how to give us good gifts; we remind ourselves that we are clay in the potter’s hands; we remind ourselves that God is still on His throne.

I don’t have answers for all the hurts in the world.  I don’t have an elixir of optimism. I only have my testimony.

This is what I wish I would have said on Sunday:

“My 2012 was bad. It was bad from an economic perspective. It was bad from a ministry perspective. I don’t know the reason I am walking through difficult and unstable economic conditions. I don’t know why the Church plant that I was part of for five years did not prosper and survive.  However, I praise God for these situations because of what they are revealing within me.

Cover of "Dark Night of the Soul"

Cover of Dark Night of the Soul

I believe that struggles and disappointments are part of a process that God uses to wean us from this world and ourselves. In the book Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross, a metaphor is used that I have returned to many times.  It is a metaphor of a mother weaning a child. I have yet to see a child enjoy the process of being weaned from milk to solid food. Yet, we all know that it is a process that is vital to the maturity of a child.  Consider the process that God uses to cause us to mature in our faith. When we are “young” in our faith, we drink spiritual milk and have spiritual forms of security blankets, binkies, sippy cups, etc.  These crutches of our spiritual immaturity are habits and mindsets that support us when the roots of our faith are not deep.  We can linger just below the surface in this immature, supported state.  However, there is a danger to immaturity. Those with shallow roots of faith are in danger of falling away when real trouble comes. (Matt. 13:20-21)

God loves us too much to leave us with shallow roots even though growing roots can hurt.

I know that the reason 2012 was difficult and disturbing is not because God was absent or inactive in my life. It was not because He does not love me or want to use me. The reason that the 2012 was distressing is precisely because God is working – in a powerful, deep, and transformative way.

I am being liberated from seeking my security in my paycheck.

I am being liberated from seeking my identity in my job title.

I am being liberated from dictating how God can use me.

I am being liberated from my appetite for the praise and respect of men.

I am being liberated from my attaching of joy to circumstances.

I am being liberated from my pride.

This process of liberating my soul from my crutches of immaturity is a totally loving, healing, and compassionate act of my Father.  It would be an unloving Father, who would leave His son in perpetual immaturity and danger of falling away. God loves me too much to let my physical comfort get in the way of His Spirit maturing my soul.

I know that the process is not complete. I still don’t really understand what God is doing.  Most of His work is being done in hidden ways that I am not even aware of. I am not enjoying this process.  It is uncomfortable and I like to be comfortable.

The Lord knows how often I pray for a little break from being weaned.  He knows how many times I have cried out due to my discomfort. Yet, I have faith that he knows what is best for me; after all He is my Father and He is so very good.

Therefore, I praise God for 2012 and what is to come in 2013.  I praise God for the “good” things that He has given me. I also praise Him for loving me enough to give me “bad” things; “bad” things that in His wonderful hands are freeing me from attachments and compulsions that I struggle with or don’t even realized are holding me back.  I praise Him for loving me enough to disrupt my comfort and cause the roots of my faith to grow deep.  I praise Him for teaching me that my true freedom and comfort resides only in Him.

It is a wondrous thing that only He can do. Blessed be his glorious name for 2012 and 2013; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!”

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being so good to me.  Thank you for providing for me; thank you for taking care of my family and keeping us safe throughout this last year.  Thank you for all the blessings that you have given me.  Lord, forgive me for dwelling on the negatives and allowing the cynicism of my mind to condemn the good work that you are doing in me.  Forgive me for wanting to have control of my life and not trusting you as I should. Father, complete your work in me. Liberate me from my flesh so that I might be free to love you as I long to do. Lord, continue your work in me; don’t leave me as I am.  Amen


  1. JD, this is great stuff. I’ll be back. Having lost a child, I can tell you that you have a real grasp of how God walks us through the Valley of the Shadow, and the what He is up to. Any child who desires to grow and to be like Him, must be led on this path. Thank you for visiting my blog and liking my post – the Lord continue to bless you!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Steve.
      I really appreciate your comments from your own experience. Praise God for sustaining you through such a difficult lose.
      God Bless!

  2. This echoes my thoughts last night..I am thankful fir my wife getting a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment; I am thankful for being broke most of the year; I am thankful for my church being divided by a nasty, failed election for a new pastor – these things and many others have forced me to be ever more dependent on the Lord to guide and sustain me, to lean more and more heavily upon His arms; to trust that He is God and He is in control. I wish I did not need these reminders, but apparently He believes this will strengthen me, so I will praise Him in all seasons, and for all reasons.

    • Amen! Thanks for your testimony to our Savior’s sufficiency and faithfulness.
      God Bless!

  3. I love that idea of being liberated from finding our identities in anything outside of Christ. Great way to look at things … and so true. In 2013, may we seek only to know Christ.

    • Amen! It is so easy to think that we are giving things up to follow Christ when we really are be liberated, set free, from all that entangles us.
      God Bless!

  4. I thought it was just me who had experienced such things and who had such a testimony that they could not express properly. Apparently God is preparing those whom He desires for His higher purposes. We can’t serve in God’s army if we haven’t been through basic training and we can’t be effective in specialized areas of combat unless we’ve been through some advanced training.

    Yet we should always hope against hope because we know and understand that though the enemy of our souls meant it for evil, God meant it for good. Even Job was blessed because of the things He went through. He said, now my eye seeth thee. I see you in a more real, more clear light God. I understand what you want from me in a more perfect way. I know how to live for you better and please you more…

    Let me stop before I write a post over here. Thanks for your stopping by and liking my post, I enjoyed yours as well.

  5. I am fully in accord with the comments above. 2012 may have been much, much better than 2011 (which may have been the roughest year of my adult life) but still, a veritable roller-coaster where God did the spectacular (as in good) where I least expected but then had to carry me through some monstrous let-downs. But I can look back and see that He was there.

    I really appreciated this post. Frankly, I love the Church. Reading this is like reading my story, which must make you my sibling from another mother…let’s all do something wonderful in His name this year!

    • Amen! It is great to be in one great big awesome family of God. Thanks for your testimony to our Savior’s faithfulness in times of trouble.
      God Bless!

  6. Our walk towards the cross will keep on being a difficult one. God molds us through fire, not sunshine. Glad the year is over as well, but I’m also dreading the trials awaiting for all of us around the corner…

    Very well put! Awesome post! Thank you for sharing! Blessings!

    • Amen!

  7. […] RESPONDING TO A BAD YEAR – Jan. 1. […]

    • Thanks for the link; I very much appreciate it.
      God Bless!

  8. Yes. There was a lot of bad in 2012 for me, too. I pray often for something new and exciting to happen to overcome all the down side of life. My Pastor reminded me in his sermon this past Sunday that we can thank God for all the times a plane did not crash. We can thank God for all the times the sun rose to another sunny day, for the times when we did have food on the table or a dollar in our pocket. Life is hard, but the abundance of life is more common than the down side of life. See my article, “Abundance is all around us”


    • Amen! Thanks for your comments and link. Very Good
      God Bless!

  9. To what extent we can praise and thank our Father seems to be related to our definition of “good.” If “good” is in the human realm – job, health, car working, etc., then we should thank the Father for those things. Yet, our “good” should be higher. Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for good. Verse 29 gives God’s definition of “good” – He foreknew us and predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. All the outward circumstances, whether “good” or “bad” can help us be conformed to Christ’s image. So, I like your statement “I praise God for 2012 and what is to come in 2013.” May we all have this view.

    • Amen! Thanks for your comment, such very good food for the soul.
      God Bless!

  10. Great… 😀 I have seen the uglies of 2012 also and it was all because God was preparing me…for something greater and I know what it is —

    Now, there are SMILES which are in contrast to all of the tears that have flowed in my house this year. Praise God–praise Him for the winnowing 🙂 . I wish the best for you this New Year–what a great testimony you have! Take care!

    • Thanks for your testimony to how good our God is and for the kind words.
      God Bless!

  11. Excellent! Well said. I like comforts too, and it is not easy when it comes to our weaning. The Lord continues to grow me up also…thankfully, He is not finished with me yet.

    • Amen!

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