Monday, January 11, 2016

It Can Only Get Better?

Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];
He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my [a]high places [of challenge and responsibility].
~ Habakkuk 3:17-19, AMP ~

a.  Habakkuk 3:19 The troubled times of life may actually be the “high places” of spiritual growth for the believer who remains stable when tested by God.

Raise your hand if you have ever had this happen when the calendar turned over to a new year...

You have just had one of THOSE years -- the kind you are more than glad to leave behind you.  It was grueling, marked by bad circumstances and sorrow.  It has not been the kind of year marked by good fortune and happy memories.

As you commiserate with a friend who has just endured the same, she utters, "Well, this new year can only get better.  We've got nowhere to go but up!"

Sound familiar?

I can remember thinking that in the past.  In fact, I can tell you that I have had several years like that in a row.  

This past year was one of THOSE years.  Riddled by yet another job loss 2 years ago, my children and I had to issue an ultimatum to my husband.  He had taken an interim job just to bring some cash in, but not enough to pay the bills.  The children and I were both at wits end.  We had to tell him:  Begin searching for a job that can adequately provide for our family, take on a second job to make ends meet, or move out.  After having worked 2 jobs the previous year, I could no longer manage caring for all of the children's medical needs and running a household as well.  It wasn't pretty, but thankfully, my husband got the message loud and clear.  

Meanwhile, we were getting our eldest ready for high school graduation and transition to her first year of college.  With the financial position we are in, finding her the funds to attend college became a serious part-time job.  There were problems with all of the paperwork, scholarships, financial aid, and she was becoming increasingly distraught.

In addition, my disabled mother turned 88 last year.  She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in January and continued to deal with other major health issues throughout the year.  She had been hospitalized once a month for the last 4 months of the year.  

Yes, it was one of those years.  Layer upon layer of stress and less-than-optimal circumstances leaving little time for margin and fun in our lives.

In fact, I have survived many, many of THOSE years.  There have been years where I have had multiple surgeries and emergency surgeries; years where my husband has lost yet another job; years where one of our parents have died; years where one of the kids was hospitalized... sometimes more than once; years where the one of the children received yet another diagnosis; years where we were having troubles with a specialist and treatment protocols; years where school was absolute hell because staff wouldn't cooperate or bullies were relentless; years where our marriage was barely limping through; years where our siblings have quarreled with and shunned us; years where friends have marched out of our lives; and one year I even went through the immense strife involved with cleaning, repairing, and selling my parents' home.  Often times, these types of things have happened in clusters, so one crisis didn't take place by itself alone.

Here's what I have learned through all of THOSE years:  The thought that, "It can only get better.  We have nowhere to go but up," is dead wrong.  It is an expectation straight from the pit of hell.  Now I'm not trying to be a Negative Nancy here, just a truth-teller.  Things can and often do get worse.

The issue is how we respond.  What do you do when things get worse just when you think they can't get any worse?  

I used to get angry at God.  I felt He owed me for all of the sorrow and strife I had seen in the past.  Then I finally READ the Holy Spirit's memo telling me that I deserved nothing but death and hell, but because of Jesus I received hope and life.  I suddenly became aware that life's crises in this fallen world gives God the opportunity to put His glory on display through my little life.  I am just an average woman who serves a boundlessly awesome Lord.  If there's hope for me, there's hope for anyone!  This is a dark world, full of trouble, but Jesus reminds me to take heart because he has overcome this world.

Friend, I don't want to squash your hopes for a better year than last.  But if this year is once again a rough one or less than you expected, take a look at where you are focusing.  Keep all your expectations in HIM!  Then at the turn of each calendar year you can look back and say, "Look at what God has seen us through!"

PRAY:  Jesus, may all our expectations be in you alone.

~ Barb Dittrich

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