So, there are two days left in 2020. Generally, there is something exciting about the anticipation of a new year. If you’ve had a challenging year, like most of us have had in 2020, you’re ready for something new. Even expect things to be different and better. I’ve heard people say, “I can’t wait to get 2020 over with. Bring on 2021.” without any trace of belief that the mess of 2020 would follow us into 2021. Optimism is always a beautiful characteristic to have. It keeps us moving forward. Sometimes the new year brings new opportunities that challenges us mentally or physically in a good way. Or it might be a time where we decide to create something new for ourselves.
But for some, it might be difficult to actually leave this year behind and head into the new. I remember after my husband passed away, it was just five months later that we were moving into 2018. My heart was heavy because it felt like I was leaving him behind. 2017 was a life-changing, monumental year for me…and for him…and I wasn’t quite ready to “move on” to a new year. I don’t know how to adequately explain that, and I know that might not makes sense to you. But grief never does.
A scripture that carried me into the new year was Psalm 23: 6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” With this truth, I figured that if I was moving into 2018, then goodness and mercy were coming with me, and I really needed goodness and mercy! I also realized that all of the memories of the past, good and bad, were coming with me, too. So, there was no real reason to want to stay stuck in 2017.
My husband lives on in the memories we have, in the faces and lives of my children, and in the anticipation of a heavenly reunion. I know that I cannot “leave” him behind.
So, now as we move into 2021, goodness and mercy are still following me, I’m sure of that. But as I ponder on what ringing in a new year could actually mean, I’m thinking of the word “new”. New life, new beginnings, new things, new opportunities. New is a word that conjures up imagines of bright hope and life for me. And the beauty of living is that we, you and me, get the chance to decide, at any time, to begin anew.
If you look up the word new in the dictionary in relation to time or an event, “new” refers to something markedly different that what was before; changed, especially for the better. I suppose that’s why people make new year’s resolutions. So that they commit to doing something “markedly different” than they did the year before; like eat healthy and exercise, so that they’re changed for the better. But for others who long for something different from the pain, sorrow, and grief of the past year, or even years, it may feel like “newness” is just out of reach, even in the new year. After all, it’s not like you can just write down a resolution and say, “this is what I’m going to do in 2021. I’m going to quit mourning, quit feeling beat down in despair.” It’s just not that cut and dry. But there are other words that come to mind when I ponder on the word new. Some of them are emerge, rebuild, resilience. Some of these words do require action on our part in order to experience something new. But typically, we find it is a process, a growth…new growth…with decisions made one on top of another…like building blocks…in order to find or even create that something new.
A loose paraphrase of Hebrews 5:14 uses words that indicate that we are trained by what we “experience” in life to “emerge” with understanding of what is truly excellent & what is evil and harmful. I am more than encouraged by this paraphrase, and here’s why. First, it says that what you experience trains you. Your training gives you the ability to understand the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful. So, you go through things in life…all kinds of things, and apply the truth of the Word to every circumstance, which trains you. And not only that, you emerge with this wisdom. Listen, I’m constantly desiring to emerge from the depths of where I’ve been. If it’s been in the pit, or in the darkness of the fog, I gotta get out! Emerge.
So I had to look up the word Emerge. What does it mean to emerge? It's clear that the definition means to recover from a difficult situation; to move away, or out of something, and to appear in a new place. That’s interesting. It clearly conveys that the place we move away from or out of is an undesirable place - a difficult situation; an unfortunate state; a sad condition. A wilderness. Now If you’ve been in a hard, dry season, or on a difficult path to travel, you know what it’s like to be in the “wilderness” of life. Psalm 63:1 says, “O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” The hardships, struggles, and difficult situations of life are “a dry and weary land” – the undesirable place…the wilderness. Synonyms for emerge are: arise, develop, grow.
So, for those of us who have experienced devastating losses, of any kind, we're in a really difficult and unfortunate state. But here we are developing, growing, so that we arise out of, move away from, the wilderness state and emerge into something new - to come forth as something new. And from all the hard things we've faced and experienced in this "unfortunate state," we can emerge stronger, more wise; able to discern what truly is the good thing and what is evil in this world that affects our lives.
Now, let me be clear. The things that I've witnessed, the tragedy that I've faced head-on, the life-altering circumstances, the loss...so much loss, NONE of this will I ever truly be able to "move out of or away from." It has changed me. It is a part of me and my very existence, and always will be. At first, the part of the definition that says, "to recover from a difficult situation" made me say, "nope," out loud. This is not something you "recover" from. Ever. Until I looked up the word recover, which means to return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength [Okay and here’s a side-note: the "normal" part is subjective, for sure].
But interestingly, synonyms for recover are: recuperate, get better, regain one's strength, get back on one's feet, improve, heal. Another definition of recover is to find or regain possession of (something stolen or lost). Synonyms here are: retrieve, reclaim, repossess, redeem, salvage, save, rescue. Now, while it's true I can never "regain possession" of my husband, our marriage, and our life together, I certainly can reclaim and repossess my faith! And, I was surprised by these other synonyms because they are things that God does: redeem, salvage, save, and rescue!
So, yes, this is a difficult and unfortunate situation I find myself in. Maybe someone would even say, a sad condition. But, I find that even in the emergence, God is doing the work of redeeming and salvaging the "experience." He is growing and developing me into something new and beautiful so that I can live with wisdom and understanding. But He's also making sure the "experience" is redeemed. God is training me with understanding so that I emerge (and I WILL emerge!) stronger, healthier, more wise. And I will have a new understanding of what is truly excellent. My focus will shift more and more to heavenly matters. My desires will be spiritually shaped. My longings will be for things of the eternal. My heart will be undivided. I will recover. I will emerge.
Friend, He can, He is doing this for you, too, for your situation. It is His heart to do so. He takes the old and makes it new again. It may not be as easy as just jotting down a New Year’s resolution on a piece of paper. But rest assured, this New Year is an opportunity filled with new, emerging, beautiful, hope-filled possibilities just waiting for you, all because there is a God who cares deeply to redeem your pain and reclaim your freedom to live…truly live in joy and peace, in spite of heartbreak and loss, and maybe even because of it. Friend, will you agree to emerge with me, into the New Year and let’s see what happens as goodness and mercy follow us in?