Happy new year everyone. Just like that, 2016 is gone, hello 2017. I think I’ve been dreading this year since it’s the year I enter into my twenties, which finally signifies true adulthood. When you turn eighteen, yes, legally, you are an adult, but emotionally, mentally, and otherwise, you’re really not. You still have all the time in the world. Twenty is when things start to be a little more serious, when you realize the future is looming at the door you don’t want to open.
The passing of each new year is sobering because it reminds me every single time how little of my life I’ve devoted to Jesus in the past year. I organized a retreat this past weekend, which always brings out the worst in me. On the upside, it showed me truly what a worthless sinner I really am, how incapable of love and compassion I am on my own accord, and how my own sheer willpower cannot be enough, at least for my mental wellbeing. Our speaker just came back from a mission trip and shared about how the incredible sacrifice of churches abroad, how they’re so willing to give up everything to follow God and after His heart. The entire time during retreat, because I was organizing it and therefore apparently the only one supposed to clean up everything, I did not have the heart of a servant. My heart was not after God’s. I did not love His people the way I should’ve. I realized I was forcing myself to do all these things, but the joy and the peace were simply not there, and I quickly burned out, having a bit of a breakdown on the first night.
The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is like it, to love our neighbors as well (Mark 12:29-31). We love God as much as we love the person we love the least. To know how people really are, we see how they behave in difficult circumstances; the challenge is definitely not acting pleasant under normal circumstances, we got that act down perfectly. Rather than seeing every chance to cook and clean up the kitchen as an opportunity to love God by loving my fellow brothers and sisters, so that they would not have to do this work themselves, I buried my fuming inside, passive aggressively telling people that it was all okay. In reality, I was not okay, not because of the trivial work I was tasked to do, but because I had so consistently and unrepentantly broken God’s commandment to love Him.
A month ago, when I wrote about Thanksgiving, I was reminded that we are commanded to rejoice in all circumstances, rather than for all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 doesn’t even say ‘please’ or ‘you should,’ but rather, simply ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ Rejoice always. Give thanks in all circumstances. For this is the will of God. God wants us to rejoice. We can rejoice and be grateful because we know that we have the greatest treasure in the world already, One that will allow us to bear through any and all circumstances. Rather than complaining internally, I needed to rejoice. Such a simple commandment, but like every other commandment, so difficult in execution, because rejoicing demands an entire renewal of your mind, rather than just our outward expression.
The incredible thing about grace is that it saves. Mosaic Law does not and cannot save us, because none of us are righteous and able to uphold the law in our lives for even a minute. The law was given to us not so that we would despair, but to show us the root of our problem, sin, and therefore how incapable we are of saving ourselves. By God’s grace He receives me, you, or anyone repents. Lord, already in this new year, I have sinned against You, as an entitled brat that thought that she could complain all she wanted in her heart about everyone else as long as she was still keeping up appearances on the outside. Please forgive me for my pride, selfishness, and inability to grasp the servant’s heart.
2016 was the biggest rollercoaster yet. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be saying that every single year, as the pressures and realities of this world continue to mound. Despite all the storms that life throws at me though, my eyes are lifted towards God. He is the Light that came to bring me joy, purpose, belonging, and most of all, life. I know that even when my life and my heart gets darkened, even just a little bit of faith to let the Light in can and will work miracles.
Oh, light that follows all my way. I yield my flickering torch to Thee. My heart restores its borrowed ray, and in Your sunshine’s blaze, its day may brighter, fairer be. And rejoice, my heart, rejoice, my soul, my Savior God has come to thee. [‘Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go’ – Robbie Seay Band]