Hit the sack about 11 p.m. TV off. Spent the last hours of 2019 reading the last few chapters of Revelation with my family. Answered questions as best I could regarding all the wild symbolism of that Blessed Book of the Bible. Reminded ourselves of the main thing – Jesus wins! He reigns forever and ever and those who have been saved by His grace will reign with Him and enjoy Him forever. And His enemies will be judged forever.
So we must soldier on. So we must carry His name to neighbors and nations. So we must not lose heart.
New Year’s is a time for Resolutions. At least in our culture. But it’s also a time for Reflection and Refocusing.
I have reflected this week on 2019. Although the Lord gave me so many unmerited blessings, the big theme of this past year for me has been pain.
Debbie Downer. I know. That’s me! But stick with me.
Pain is real. Hurt hurts. Sin has wrecked this world and trashed our hearts. I attended 6 funerals in 2019. Preached four of them. Stood over the dead bodies of three beloved saints whom I had the immense privilege to pastor. I loved them fiercely, and wish I could have, would have, shepherded them more faithfully and more effectively. But by God’s grace I did my best, and now I miss them horribly. The congregation of CBC misses Daryl, Jay, and Martha. Holes in our hearts now.
I also preached the funeral for my wife’s step mom. We miss her sorely.
Members in our church have had to bury their grandchildren and young siblings this year. So much pain.
Hurts and breaks in relationships have also marked my 2019. Friends lost. Sometimes despite efforts at restoration. My own sins and shortcomings highlighted. Reasons for the losses, however, ultimately not known. Perhaps never will be understood. At least not in this life. My family and I have hurt deeply, and we know our former friends have also hurt. We are sorry for it all. We minimize none of this pain. We grieve not just for ourselves, but for others too.
Preaching through Hosea this past Fall has been just what Doctor Jesus ordered. I cannot begin to tell you the impact Hosea 6:1 has had upon me as I reflect on 2019.
Come let us return to the Lord! For He has torn us, that He might heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds.
Truth is, 2019 has simply made me long ever-more deeply for the return of Christ Jesus. God has refocused me on eternity. Given a gospel-driven ache to my soul for all things to be made new. Fixed my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith. Reminded me of the light momentary afflictions that will, some grand day, produce an eternal weight of glory!
While I aim by God’s sanctifying Spirit to strive for more holiness, more peace, more restoration in 2020, the pain of 2019 prods me not to live for this world. Not to expect my best life now. To know sin is not yet eradicated in my heart, nor in the hearts of those around me.
Pain is merited by me. By you. By everyone. Except Jesus.
Unspeakably, Christ came as “a man of sorrows acquainted with grief” and was “pierced for our transgressions.” And in Christ Jesus our Lord, all things are reconciled and restored (Col 1:20). Jesus even redeems our pain. “By His wounds we are healed.” And yes, He even redeems it sometimes in the here and now, but one day perfectly in the new heaven and earth. Singer / songwriter Laura Story has so aptly called us to account in this matter:
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life-
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
Well, amen! “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 123). Pain will not get the final word. Jesus is too great a Savior to allow it. And Jesus is so great He turns hurt into healing, gangrene into glory. O, that in 2020 I might have the vision to see it.
As I refocus now for the New Year ahead, I pray with Susanna Wesley:
Help me, O Lord, to make a true use of all disappointments and calamities in this life, in such wise that they may unite my heart more closely with Thee. Cause them to separate my affections from worldly things and inspire my soul with more vigour in the pursuit of true happiness.
Amen. Happy New Year!
P.S. As I write this, I battle the pain of shingles. “Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly!”