Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hope In the New Year

Happy New Year, Friend!

As you read that greeting, what comes to your mind? Is your heart filled with excitement and anticipation about all that God will do in the coming year? Or do you think of the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams that you had at this time last year? Your answer to this question reveals something about you. If your expectations for this year were based on biblical assumptions about God and what He can do, then you are probably excited for the New Year. If your expectations were based on anything else, you were probably disappointed.

Those of us who suffer long-term or chronic conditions often become pessimistic. We have dealt with pain and disability for so long that we have stopped hoping for improvement, and have fallen into a miserable—though somehow comfortable—habit of slogging along and “doing our best.” This happens when we base our expectations for life on our condition. If it improves, life will improve. If it doesn't, life goes on but we live numb or depressed. My friend, it does not have to be this way!

I would like to challenge you today to begin to base your expectations for the future on the invisible! This may sound crazy, but think about it. Up until now, you have sunk the roots of your hope in things you can see, feel, or touch. On good days, when pain levels are low and function is high, you're happy and optimistic. On bad days, you dread the future and you feel sad. But what if you changed your thinking about these things? What if, every day before you put your feet on the floor, you made a decision that you would place your hope only in Christ, and tell him that? It would go something like this:

“Good morning, Lord. I love you, and I know that you love me. Today, if it is a bad day for me, I am going to walk with you, and trust in your goodness and love for me. When I have pain or weakness, I will use it as a reminder of Your strength (1 Corinthians 12:9). When I feel anxious or worried about the future, I will remember that you will always supply my need (Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:33). If my pain or disability makes me feel sad, I will remember how You suffered for me, and I will try to use my suffering as a tool to show others your grace. I will tell them how you help me, encourage my heart, and love me through my hard days. And I will praise you!

“If it is a good day, I am going to walk with you, and trust in your goodness and love for me. As I enjoy more function in my body, and less pain, I will praise you for that, and remember to be grateful instead of wishing for more good days. I will use this good day for your glory, to catch up on my regular responsibilities. I will tell those I love, who often feel so helpless on the bad days, how well I feel today, so they can enjoy the blessing, too. And I will praise you! Whatever this day brings, dear Lord, I will trust you to walk me through it.”

So, my friend, this is my New Year’s challenge to you. Tomorrow morning, when you wake up, pray a prayer something like the one above. Let your Father know that you are placing your hope in Him, not in improvement of your condition. No matter what the day may bring, make a commitment each and every morning to trust the Lord, and to put your hope completely in Him. Decide right now that you will no longer ride the roller coaster of hopes and expectations that are based on how you feel physically, but you will place your hope in Christ and His perfect plan for you, regardless of how the day goes. You may find that, as the weeks and months of this New Year pass, you are more optimistic and hopeful about the future. And next December, when people start spouting off that “Happy New Year” phrase, your response will be excitement and anticipation of what God will do in yet another new year of this blessed life He has given you!