At the midnight countdown to 2017, while it seemed as though the whole world around you celebrated and rejoiced ready for exciting things to come in the new year, were you hiding under your covers dreading the moment the clock struck 12?
For some of us, the ones hiding under the covers, the new year came full of fears and sorrows. For some of us, maybe we faked fine to get through New Year’s Eve, and now we’re here 11 days in trying to hold it all together with white knuckles just to make it through the day. The thing is, the world missed us, and you felt it, but they probably missed us because we were silent and hiding.
If you find yourself dreading this year, I see you, and the world needs to see too.
The reality is, while there are many things to celebrate in the New Year, especially as a follower of Christ as we think of all the newness he brings to our lives and his transforming powers, some of us are walking through really hard seasons right now or we can see them looming ahead waiting for us in 2017, and we cannot bring ourselves to celebrate or be joyful about this year.
I know because this was me. On December 31, 2009, I was the girl hiding under her covers, crying as 2010 was coming whether I liked it or not, whether I was ready or not, and with every fiber of my being I just wanted time to stop. I didn’t want the new year to come.
I remember as friends took to social media celebrating all they were excited for in their new years, weddings planned, babies due to arrive, new careers, new homes, I looked on from behind my screen and felt like I was dying inside.
What did my new year hold?
Death. Loss. My world about to crumble right in front of my eyes.
Coming in the new year for me would be the death of the child in my arms on that New Year’s Eve night and the death of my father withering away from the cancer stealing his life. These were the events at the end of 2009 that I knew were coming in 2010, and all I could do was sit back as I helplessly watched the people who had my heart leave this world.
On New Year’s Eve that year, I knew my next year would hold the greatest season of suffering and loss and grief I had ever known. I looked ahead to the new year, and all I saw was pain and loss. I saw my life as I knew it about to be completely taken away from me. There was no celebrating. There was mourning. Fear. Dread. Hopelessness. Despair. And lament, deep expressions of grief and sorrow to the Lord.
Maybe you can relate? Maybe this was your new year in past years or maybe this is your 2017.
Dear one, when all you can see is pain and grief and hopelessness in your year ahead, please hear these words on how you can not only make it through the new year, but how you can live fully in it right where you are and find hope and life:
1. Lament before God
First and foremost, express your emotions honestly before God. Your hurts, your anger, your sorrow, your fear, your whys, everything you’re holding inside. Give it to him. God will meet you there.
This post has come at the perfect time because I just finished the book No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece,** and in her book Esther shares about the need for lamenting. Lamenting is needed for God to meet you where you are, to carry you, to comfort you, to give you truth and bring clarity to your circumstances and fears, to heal you, to give you perspective and purpose. The first step to enduring, persevering, and finding hope and healing during this year is lamenting.
Here are some words I loved that Esther Fleece shares in No More Faking Fine about lamenting:
“Unprocessed laments keep our hearts in chains.”
“Lament saves us from staying stuck in grief and rescues us from a faith based on falsehoods.”
“The enemy doesn’t have as much power to play around in our minds when our laments come to light.”
“A lament is a pathway; it serves a purpose… lament becomes an authentic pathway leading to real healing.”
2. Arm yourself with God’s truth
The reality is, you’re probably under some serious spiritual attacks from the enemy if you’re experience difficult trials. Make yourself alert to this and arm yourself with God’s truth so you do not fall susceptible to the enemy’s lies that want to steal from you and seek to destroy. Study his Word so he can whisper it to your heart in those moments where you feel the darkness creeping in, when the emotions and lies try to consume you so that you can cling to his promises and understand his character and his love for you.
3. Be vulnerable and find your people
Most of us want to crawl under our covers and hide from the world or cry on the bathroom floor behind closed doors in order to isolate ourselves during our seasons of suffering and in times of pain. This is a tactic of the enemy. He wants us isolated and feeling alone because we are more vulnerable to his attacks. While there’s a time for lamenting before the Lord, just wrestling one-on-one with him, there’s a time for surrounding yourself with others because you cannot get through “this” alone. You will need to be vulnerable with godly people in your life who can listen, who can sit with you, who can provide tangible comforts like a hug, who can be God’s hand and feet to you, who can pray with you, who can bring light to your darkness. An added benefit of sharing the hard stuff you’re walking through is that God will use your brokenness and vulnerability to minister to others right in the midst of it.
Esther also addresses this in No More Faking Fine; she writes:
“…one of the kindest things we can do for each other is to offer a safe space where we don’t have to do it alone. The ministry of presence is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer each other, especially in the midst of heartache.”
“As we expose our pain and shame, we draw others to the One who is faithful to redeem all our stories. We also expose the lies that the enemy tells us when we keep laments to ourselves. When we share with others… it allows others to not only surround us and pray for us, but to open up with their laments as well.”
“The thing you are trying hardest to hide may just be the very lament that will bring hope and healing to others.”
4. Dare to hope
Oh I know some of you read this and cringe as you think, “Hope? Are you kidding me? How in the world could you expect me to hope for anything right now?” Friends this is hopelessness speaking, and hopelessness is a liar. Trust me, I get it. But dare to do it. I know it seems risky if not impossible, but it’s worth the risk to dare to hope.
In 2010, I had no reason to hope. The deaths of my daughter and father were essentially promised. My life as I knew it was about to be taken away, and my future and dreams were being erased as well. What could I hope for? I literally was blanketed and blinded by hopelessness. I could not see how my life would ever be “good” again. I was convinced I would never recover from how my heart was about to shatter. I couldn’t envision a future for myself. Maybe you’ve felt or feel this way too?
Friends, these are pure lies from the enemy even though they seem so true. God promises us a future in him. He promises to work things for good. I know, I know, I read these verses and felt like they were mocking me and actually lamented over them to God. But it’s true. Having walked through the hopelessness and darkness and despair, I’ve seen my story didn’t end there. I’ve seen how God is working to bring beauty from the ashes and how he’s giving my pain purpose and bringing me a future.
Remember seasons change. There is a time for everything. This will not last forever. And even in the midst of the seasons where we experience the unknown or loss or suffering, we can find the hope of our God who is doing something right where we are. Draw close to him and you will be able to hope in the midst of your hopelessness.
5. Choose joy
Oh I know some of you are like please do not throw this cliche at me right now. I know. I was there with this one too. But oh do it. Even though it might be hard, hard work. The enemy is attacking you and coming to steal your joy, but God (oh that phrase “but God” how I love it) is coming to bring you joy and life (John 10:10). Believe it, look for it, choose it.
Ask God to help you have his perspective in your pain. Ask him to help you choose joy. Find reasons to give thanks, and you’ll find joy following. Choosing joy doesn’t mean fake fine, pretend you’re happy, or feel pressure to act like the pain isn’t there. Through lamenting and intimacy with the Lord, you’ll find him offering you blessings of joy in him, little gifts to comfort you, to make you smile, to see him.
6. Live with an expectant heart
Expect God to meet you where you are in your brokenness, in your lamenting. Expect him to be faithful to his promises as you study them and cling to them. Expect him to provide for you in your pain, through being vulnerable, through others, for every need you have. Expect him to be at work right where you are. Expect him to heal your pain. Expect him to bring hope, joy, and purpose to you right in the midst of your season. Expect to experience his love and goodness even when life seems far from good. Expect, wait, hope, find. In choosing to live with an expectant heart through your new year, in each day, you’ll find your way through.
“Our ‘why’ laments, even when unanswered, can teach us how to wait expectantly for the Father’s will, and in our waiting, He blesses us with closeness to Him in our distress.” (Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine).
So, to the one dreading this new year… I hope this brings you encouragement and a way through the darkness and enables you to receive God’s miracles and blessings in your life this year.
**Note: This post contains NO affiliate links. I wasn’t even intending to use this post for promotional purposes but with the timing of the book and the post I had to link them together. Also, I’ll be including a review of No More Faking Fine in my monthly newsletter for February so make sure you’re an email subscriber so you can receive it.