By this point in January, most of us have adjusted to writing 2023 on our paperwork. We’ve packed up the Christmas ornaments and recycled our Amazon boxes from the shopping season. Some of us have booked our kids’ summer camps and started a stash of tax paperwork to get ready for April 15. Many have joined a gym, revamped their budget, or applied for a new school or job. We’re facing forward to the hopes and challenges of this shiny new year.
Yet for Rob and me, we’ve been taking pause before launching into a list of new goals and resolutions. We know our habit of defaulting to “yes” when a task or fresh opportunity presents itself. We’re feeling the discomfort in our spirit of knowing we’ve avoided stillness. Rest. Prayer and contemplation. Listening for God’s still, small voice. We’ve moved so far, so fast over the past months that the danger of falling out of step with the Spirit is real.
The Scripture that God has been keeping on repeat is Ecclesiastes 3:1:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
The question we’ve been prompted to keep asking is, “What time is it for us and our family?”
The answer for us comes from the next seven verses of Ecclesiastes 3:
“…a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
Over and over, the Spirit has spoken that this is a time for us to heal, to both break down and build up, to lose and to keep silence in peace.
In practical terms, this means working with a doctor to resolve some long-term health concerns. It means scaling back or stepping away from some of our service activities. It’s choosing to unplug and learn the true meaning of sabbath. This is a “time” to study and grow for me (Joanna) as I press into my ministry studies degree (after first taking a half-term off from classes). It’s time to restore our pattern of focused, weekly prayer as a couple. It’s continuing to settle into our new address and make it a home. And, to open this home to new and old friends to grow deeper in our relationships.
This is also a time to savor our family. We’ve enjoyed a sweet winter with Rob’s mom staying with us, and we’re excited to welcome our second grandchild in the spring. In this season we’re glad to create margin to simply bond and be together when and where we can.
What about you?
Just as God creates the seasons we see outside our window, He’s crafting a season and a time for you as well. Perhaps He’s leading you to take brave steps into places of leadership and influence. Or He’s pulling up your roots to move you to a new community. Maybe He’s preparing you to stand for justice or set real boundaries with those who’ve been stealing your safety and well-being. Perhaps this is His time to walk you into freedom from the destructive habit that’s been crippling your faith and relationships for too long. Maybe He’s holding out the gift of rest so you can recover from burnout. In whatever form it takes, God has planned these days for you down to the smallest detail.
As we enter this year and this time that God has prepared, let’s remember three things:
First, God is the author of our lives.
We might be craving change and movement, but in His wisdom, He might be teaching patient endurance instead. We might want to hold on to what’s familiar and safe while He’s remaking our lives beyond recognition! It’s tempting to fall into the hustle, drive, and priorities of the world around us instead of simply listening and following at God’s pace.
Today, let’s lift God high as our King. Let’s remember that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). When we think our strong will and smart planning will move us forward, may we take a humble posture of faith that “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
He knows best. He’s in control. He can be trusted with every worry, longing, and difficulty we face. God is God and we are not—let’s find peace and rest in His will today.
Second, make God your goal.
It’s good and right to desire health and fitness. Financial freedom. A career that maximizes our passions and gifts. Fulfilling relationships that build us up. Adventures that create lifelong memories and show us the beauty of God’s creation. Yet for all the wonderful experiences and successes we might pursue, nothing can satisfy like Jesus.
This year, let’s take Matthew 6:33 to heart and “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” Let’s see every person, success, and setback as an opportunity to see God at work in our lives. With the Spirit’s help, let’s throw our energy and focus into knowing and enjoying God Himself instead of the tangible blessings He gives. Imagine this year if we simply sat in His presence in prayer. If we filled our minds and conversations with His Word. If we chose the “great gain” of “godliness with contentment” instead of chasing after more (1 Tim. 6:6).
Let’s come out the other side of this year with more of God than we’ve ever known before.
Finally, don’t be afraid.
If we’ve learned anything from the past, it’s that the future is uncertain. This year might hold loss and pain. We might feel rejected or let down by someone we trust. We might not gain the reward that our hard work and dedication deserve. A precious, personal dream might go unfulfilled. In the face of all that might go terribly wrong, anxious fears can steal our joy and crush our hope for tomorrow.
God steps into the uncertainty with a beautiful promise:
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
Whatever happens, God will be right here. He’ll hear every prayer. He’ll count every tear. He will use the worst of our days for our good in the end. We’ll never be alone or forgotten as He cherishes us as His own children. God will be faithful to keep growing us up and mending what’s broken. We can face forward with courage and peace because we’re His and He never lets us go.
We’re grateful we can walk these days with you in friendship and prayer. Maybe you’re struggling because God’s plans just don’t make sense right now. Or you want to trust Him and know Him more, but He seems a million miles away. Perhaps anxiety is keeping you awake at night, and you wonder if you’ll ever be okay. If that’s where you are, we invite you to reach out any time. We’re always grateful to listen and to pray. God bless you in the year ahead!