A lot will say that 2016 wasn’t the best of their years. Conflicts, in probably every aspect of our lives, rose and seem to surprise us at every corner. But a lot can be learned from our experiences. Because in the end, we are mindful, soulful, human beings who are capable of change.
I have personally gone through a lot of adjustments this year. From transitioning work, to losing family members, to discovering so-called friends were strangers at heart. Nevertheless, there are some things I can’t seem to shake off. And so I need some reminding of what my center really is. We all need to go back to our purpose in life, our reason for being. When we remember who we are, then our thoughts and actions will reflect our Creator. So here are some things we need to remember for a great 2017.
Whatever the circumstance, God is worthy to be praised.
One of my group leaders pointed out how easy it is for people to focus on the negative – to gripe and complain about anything that is going around us. Why? Because as humans, that seems to be our default. It’s so convenient to focus on the wrong things happening. And nowadays, it takes a lot of effort to find goodness in the world.
In one of our fellowship sessions, we had discussed a story of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah. (Psalms 63:1-8) And the message was simple yet profound at the same time. He was hiding out from people who had intended to kill him. And in the middle of his turmoil, David praised God! He exalts His name and allow himself to be vulnerable and dependent on God. (v. 1b: My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You, in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.)
Doesn’t that just go against human nature? When we face a loss, heartache, or defeat, people usually blame God and not praise Him. We are often surrounded by our own deserts. Our environment is recently in need of love, justice, peace, and is often filled with illness and death. We experience drought in this earthly world and as Christians, what should we do? We are called to praise Him. That is not to say that we blindly leave the fate of the world to crumble by not doing anything, but rather, to believe that in whatever season of our lives, the Lord is with us and for us. This year, we will be facing success and defeat, health and illness, abundance and lack, what have you. And we are called to have faith that through the grace of God and the Holy Spirit in us, praise the Lord. Because good and truth will prevail.
Forgive, and leave toxic relationships.
I have always thought that forgiveness means giving the person another chance. I think a lot of people have this mindset. And it seems logical. How else can you show forgiveness if you do not give them another chance? We are made to believe that everyone deserves it. But then again, how many “second chances” is enough? Or will it even ever be enough?
The answer is yes. It is true that forgiveness means allowing the other person to get a second chance, maybe a third. Even seventy-seven times! But the Bible also warns us in Proverbs 22, to avoid people that would be unhealthy for us. (v. 24-25: Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.) We are not perfect. There will come a time when we are influenced to behave inappropriately. In these circumstances, sometimes it is healthier to leave. Why? Because our entire being is vessel of God’s love. That is not to say that you simply gave up. But it very important to protect ourselves from temptations of the devil. The Lord will continue to protect you, whatever the situation, but it is good to protect ourselves from our own demise.
Furthermore, pray. There are people that just seem to bring out the worst in us – walk away. But I urge you to pray for grace of forgiveness. It is never easy, and we are sometimes trapped in that darkness of misery and anger because of it. It is only through the God’s strength that we will be able to truly forgive. And pray for the other person, that the Lord work in their lives. Do not wish for them illness or harm, but rather a change of heart.
When you pray, give yourself time to listen to Him.
Prayer has always been defined as our conversation with our Creator. And listening has always been the hardest part for me. It is easy to listen to someone who has a voice, someone we can literally hear. But God doesn’t speak to us that way. Maybe in Biblical times, but not anymore.
Today, our prayers are usually composed of requests and worries. And we find it difficult to hear him because of everything that is going on in our minds and in our hearts. Even Job himself was doubting and complaining, accusing that God was unjust over his trials (Job 32-33). However, Elihu explains that God uses various means to keep us safe. (v. 14-15: For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds,) God communicates with us through the Holy Spirit, through the people He sends in our paths, or even in just the everyday seemingly random circumstances. Sometimes, just some quiet time allows our minds to be renewed and refreshed with the Word of God, to be reminded of His favor and receive His grace. We are called to just surrender our hearts, listen, and allow God to work in us.
Time seems to also be an issue when we pray. We are usually in a rush, having a deadline as to when we want things to happen for us. Immediately. By the end of the year. Before I turn 30. But we have to understand that the Lord is not bound by our earthly time. An hour, a day, a month, a year, a decade? They mean nothing to our infinite God. We are called to just trust in His plans for us. He did not just randomly create us, but we were molded for a purpose. Because in the end, He is our purpose. He is the reason for our reason for being. And we are His.