I’ve never looked more forward to the new year. I wanted 2018 to end as soon as it began. And while the new year doesn’t promise a change of circumstances, there’s something refreshing about it.
It’s like a mindset reset. And I’ve desperately needed one.
You know those people who go through suffering and still smile? Yea, I always thought I’d be that type—like Joey Feek. Or Nancy Guthrie. Or Joni Eareckson Tada. Then my own suffering began and continued—throughout the entire year.
Instead, I found myself hardly smiling at all, definitely not laughing, and crying almost every day.
I wanted to crawl back in bed. I barely wanted to eat. I certainly didn’t want to do anything I normally enjoyed doing like running or writing or being around my friends.
In my suffering, no smile-inducing joy could be found—only sorrow—deep, life-sucking, paralyzing sorrow—the kind people quit their jobs over, the kind people destroy relationships over, the kind people commit suicide over.
And I am a born again Christian.
Some days I resented happy people. They must have never gone through what I’m going through. They wouldn’t be happy if so.
But now (by God’s grace) after a year of my own experience, I realize something about these joyful sufferers in which I envied. Their joy in their hardship didn’t come automatically. No one’s does.
They weren’t strong and happy people with special genes. They went through true and hard things with joy not by default, for then they could boast in themselves. They fought for this joy, refocusing their hope on God daily—if not multiple times a day. And by God’s grace, he gave it to them.
There wasn’t something wrong with me. There was something wrong with where I fixed my hope.
I attempted to find hope by thinking on God’s sovereignty, yet Satan twisted my otherwise good thoughts.
He caused these terrible things to happen to me. He allowed it to get this bad. How could this be for my good? Why me?
Thinking on God’s sovereignty felt like the right thing to do (and it was), yet because of the deceitfulness of sin, it still left me feeling hopeless.
It made me feel worse. And because of what the Bible says about those whose hope is in God, I knew something wasn’t right.
Turns out, I wasn’t really hoping in God and his good and sovereign will like I thought I was. What I really hoped for was a good God to give me some relief. I wanted him to give it by ending my current suffering and by making me stronger and more ready for the next bit of suffering when it hit.
I hoped it would be easier.
But a good God doesn’t promise relief from hardship. He promises himself. He will be with us—he says. He will never leave us, and this is a good and great relief.
The next round of suffering came immediately after the previous one, prolonging the season. And to my surprise, I felt weaker and less prepared.
Turns out, new hardships aren’t easier after having gone through others. Each hardship has its own trouble, but our hope should remain the same. That is, if our hope is in the right place in the first place.
Mine was not.
During some of my lowest days, I often thought of my 2018 New Year’s Resolution, if we can call it that. It was one word: Holiness. I wanted God to make me more holy.
On those low days, I often questioned him—for using this to make me more holy. He could’ve used anything but this, and I’d be glad for it. But he didn’t.
I wanted to be more holy. In other words, I wanted to have less sin. I was tired of seeing it. I wanted it to go away—for good.
God does promise one day we will have no more sin—but not in this lifetime. His process of purification does begin here, throwing us in fiery trials, ridding us of impurities and sins, bringing us out more pure, but we have to yield to him to work it in and through us—to cleanse and purify us.
To respond sinlessly to my circumstances instead of with anger and a billion other sins would’ve been awesome. It would’ve made my life easier. There’d be no more internal war, which is what I hate most, but that’s the Christian life.
I didn’t know my hope was misplaced until my suffering revealed it. I didn’t care to find out until I reached the point of hopeless desperation. And I wasn’t grateful in how God wanted to use my suffering until I began to let him.
Through my suffering, he’s brought me one degree closer to holiness by repentance (and lots of it) and faith in the true hope I have in Jesus now and at his revelation.
So what’s my New Year’s Resolution for 2019? Holiness. Perhaps it will be the same every year from now on.
I wanted 2018 to end, but now I’m glad for it—for now I know my hope. And this Hope brings great joy!