Some Thoughts on the New Year

Each year, I try to set goals for the new year. It’s a good practice, and when I set those goals prayerfully I have that extra assurance and motivation that those goals should and can be achieved. Without being intentional, we become subject to all the random forces around us. Our lives become a crap shoot.

But even when we are intentional, the randomness of life can overtake us to the point we feel like the ship being driven by the wind and waves while we hold on for dear life. 2021 was such a year for me.

I travelled repeatedly across the country to help my parents move out of their home of twenty years into an assisted living facility, while my father was slowing slipping out of this world into the next. When he passed away in July, and I was planning his funeral, and dealing with the grief, I was diagnosed with a health problem of my own. Then in September, while on vacation–our first in two years because of the pandemic–I developed another unrelated health problem, that led to new tests, concerns, and more doctor appointments.

We looked forward to a good holiday season and had scheduled hip replacement surgery for my 86 year old mother with the hope she would be able to walk again, but two days before she was to travel here for the surgery, the results of a cardiology test showed a heart problem which required a catheterization procedure and postponement of the hip replacement.

About the same time we were learning about my mother, my brother was hospitalized with COVID-19. A few days later, he was moved into the ICU, and it wasn’t clear if he would survive. Fortunately, by the mercy of God, he turned the corner on Christmas Day, and while he is still in the hospital he appears to be on the road to recovery.

Then, my cousin died of lymphoma on December 30, 2021. He had not told anyone but immediate family about his illness, so we were shocked when we heard he had died.

All the events I just described largely defined my year, and yet, I had nothing to do with their occurrence. All, I could do was respond to them, while at the same time continuing to seek God, doing my work, discipling others, and pursuing the goals He gave me at the beginning of the year.

This is the way of life in a fallen world. Nehemiah’s workers worked on the walls of Jerusalem with one hand while holding a sword in the other. See Nehemiah 4:17-18. They controlled what they could control but were prepared to deal with what they could not.

This duality is not an argument against making plans; just the opposite, it proves the necessity of them. The trials and tribulations of life arise largely out of the fallenness of the world. As the Lord works through us to remake the world, we must still navigate the effects of its decay. But without plans, we will simply live reactive lives. We will be tempted to play the victim because it is all too easy to interpret trials personally in a play in which we appear in every scene.

So, regardless of what your 2021 was like, regardless of whether chaos seemingly reigned in your life, continue to plan for 2022 and be intentional. You never know what might happen. GS

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