My December was rough. And based on what I heard from several friends, family members, and social media connections, I was not alone.
As I was dealing with sickness, frozen pipes, a broken vacuum and a deep freezer on the fritz the day before company was coming, I was reading messages and posts about similar situations for what seemed like everyone I know. Hospitalizations, unexpected bills, travel plans canceled by weather, and even funerals.
The end of the year was hard for a lot of us.
The beauty of the end of the year, though, is that it’s the end. Right? We’re finishing projects, crossing days off the calendar, making it through exams and deadlines, and wondering when is too early to take back our house from the Christmas clutter (or, conversely, deciding to leave up those twinkly lights because they’re cozy and that’s enough reason for you). The end of the year often brings a mingling of joy and grief, but no matter what your circumstance, it brings hope.
Hope of a new year. Hope of another chance. Hope of a fresh start.
More than once, I’ve found myself saying something like, “Here’s to a new year (may it be better than the last one)!” Sometimes the hope of a new beginning is the thing we desperately need to help us endure a hard season.
So, the end of the year was rough, but of course I survived. I survived — for a few moments I may have even thrived — and then January came with its new planner, prepped lunches, and a plan to plug in my treadmill again. My January even came with a new job, so I had all the expectations in the world that this year would! be! different!
I felt so optimistic until the moment I received a phone call, making it clear that 2023 would be the same as last year, that nothing had changed, that “new year, new us” was a big bag of lies.
(As you see, I went from hopeful to hopeless real fast.)
I hung up the phone and threw it on the couch, crying out loud, “Why, God?!! I thought we were past this! I thought things were better! Why is this still happening?” I looked at my calendar and wondered how God could break His promises for fresh mercies, for clean starts, for a new year to mean a new life, a new reality, a new everything.
Spoiler alert: God did not break His promises. He never has and He never will.
My confusion came from my misunderstanding of those promises, perhaps a bit willfully as I tried to twist God’s Word into a guarantee of earthly goodness. I know better. But that didn’t stop me from plucking a few verses out of the Bible and clinging to them for what I wanted, rather than what is true.
Perhaps you’ve fallen prey to this temptation too? Maybe you’ve suffered through a painful season, treading water and grabbing anything that looks like it might keep you afloat. Maybe you’ve felt so weary and worn down that analyzing the Bible and remembering what you’ve studied and learned in that past truly is too hard. Or maybe you’ve looked squarely at Scripture and simply not liked what you saw.
That’s pretty much where I was in January, wiping tears off my face and wondering where God was and why He wasn’t doing what I wanted and needed and expected. But like the patient heavenly Father that He is, God didn’t roll His eyes at my tantrum or ignore me until I got myself under control.
No, He gently reminded me of the exact words of those scriptures I’d been clinging to and asked me to look at them again.
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland…
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.”
See what it says? God’s mercies begin fresh each morning, and He makes rivers in the desert. Yes, praise Him for that!
But it turns out God didn’t promise to reverse our loss or even to end our suffering; He promises never ending mercy and faithfulness. And it turns out God didn’t promise to pull us out of the desert — He declares He will provide water to refresh us while we’re there. As Jesus said in John 16:33, we’re gonna have troubles in this world. But He is stronger than the world and He will be with us through all those troubles.
When I flipped open my new planner on January 1, my life didn’t magically improve. My daughter is still sick, my marriage is still hard, my finances are still a mess, and I even found myself coughing and sniffling again just like I was in December. Everything about my life and this world is the same as it was last year — and that includes the Lord.
When this new year feels a lot like the old year, remember that this is actually a gift. It’s not evidence of a broken promise; it’s the fulfillment. God is faithful and true to every one of His promises. So just like last year and the year before that and the year before that, He is with us. He loves us, He cares for us, and He will never leave us alone. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Oh Mary, I get it! I feel like the movie Ground Hog Day. I am on a never ending treadmill. I am trying to keep positive and remember God is watching over me but some days it is so hard. The verses from Lamentations are such a help.
Mary Carver says
Yes, it’s so hard when it feels like we’re stuck in Groundhog Day!! But no matter how many times we wake up to the same old, same old, God is with us. And I’m so grateful!
Pamela Christopher says
Today is the day,I needed to read this!
Have been fasting as a collective fast with my church today, and have stumbled across nuggets of encouragement and whispers of love from God the entire day.Found Breathing Eden, by Jennifer Camp, and your message .Together they have put back that sparkle in my eye and the spring in my step, in spite of how sad I feel.
God loves me….and I know this to be true.
It was nice “hearing “that whisper today….in spite of myself.
Mary Carver says
Pamela, I’m so glad this and the other messages you’re reading are an encouragement!
Karen Purkey says
Thank you for posting this today, Mary. Life is hard, but our Lord loves us no matter what the circumstances we are embracing. I needed your writing today.
Oh Mary, I so needed these words today! I had a pretty rough December, too. And January wasn’t the turn around I promised myself. Today, on February 13th, 2023 I will start afresh. With God at my side and in my heart. Thank you!
I certainly can relate. My January was a continuation of December and even rougher. But oddly enough, I think because my expectations for January were low, I didn’t feel let down or angry. I am not saying that we should not get our hopes up, by all means, as a Christian we should be marked by our hope in Jesus. I am saying that when the circumstances of life leave us drained and discouraged, it’s ok to feel sad, and manage our expectations for the season that we’re in. At least for me, managing the highs and lows allow me to keep humming the tune on the radio, keep smiling at strangers, and be strong for those in my family or friend circle that are struggling. James 1:2-8 sums this up best for me. My word for the beginning of the year was to be ROOTED. I sincerely asked the Lord to make me rooted in him. I have to believe that this season I’m in is his plan for me.
Mary Carver says
Ohhhhh, Christine, I love that. Rooted—that’s such a good word for us as we face high highs and low lows.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Mary I needed this so much. As I feel I am the only one in my family for the last year doing the most to help our elderly Dad. When they could do a bit more for our Dad. Then I say don’t complain. As I should be thankful I able to do all I do for my Dad when he elderly. One day he not be here he 82 now. But you get at times you seem to be the only one doing the bulk of it all. I go 6 days a week for couple of hours to do his house. My Dad at times not easy to work with as he has mind of his own. You tell him things to help him in love he doesn’t listen to you he does his own thing. God said to me one day remember your doing in love on to your Dad and on to Me. Remember your Dad not saved he nothing will change he think he knows best when at time he doesn’t become he older than you and the elder. Your only telling him in love to make life easier for him. Just say nothing and pray for him and his Salvation be thankful you are able to do his house. I do that now. Mary God does make a way as you say in wilderness and his doing a new thing in my life. Giving me the strength to all I do you need to do for my Dad and be thankful I can do it for my Dad and remember no to let it get to me when things he does that annoy me. That he should be doing that he will not do because he thinks he knows best. Remember what God told me nothing will change in my Dad until he get saved. So I have to be one year it will change and not be like the old ones my Dad will get saved things in life will change he will be a new person. Knowing people are telling him things then to help him and in love and not think he know best. I believe God one year that will happen. Thank you Mary for today reading. I needed it. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Thank you for this Mary….my heart and soul so needed to read these words today. Struggling with depression and “life” and this last year has been hard. Thank you for reminding me that God is with us each step of the way..guiding, leading, and holding us in His arms. Still struggling but I know God will see me thru…one step at a time.
This is such a great message and so applicable to my life! I have been meditating on Isaiah 43:19 this year and praying for those roads and rivers in my desert to lead me out. To see His hand at work in my family this year. Thank you for pointing out He doesn’t promise to lead us out but to refresh us while we’re there. I haven’t thought of it that way before. I love reading your posts!
Beth Williams says
So sorry for all that you went & are going through. This was a much needed post for many. For me this past fall through now has been somewhat difficult. Nov. 2021 I was moved to an ICU Covid unit to be their clerical. I was happy when they made me fulltime benefitted–know it was all God. Early last fall the other clerical quit suddenly & my job changed to stocking 28 ICU rooms. I tried to make the best of it at first. Then it got to me. Feet hurting & now tendon tightness in finger on right hand. I don’t feel like they are using me to my full potential. For some reason God is keeping me there & not giving me other jobs. I just have to rely on His never ending faithfulness & mercy. Plus cling to Jeremiah 29::11.