As I was waiting for the fireworks to light up the sky a year ago, counting down to a new year, could I have imagined all that had happened this year?
I cannot say that it has been a bad year. There have been so many beautiful moments filled with laughter, and thinking of everything fills me with true thankfulness. I also cannot say that it has been an easy year. Looking back, some memories easily bring me to tears.
There were the everyday challenges, when I found myself praying that God would help me do a task I feared doing, or to give me wisdom with my money. There have been some sad moments, missing loved ones that are far away and learning to deal with the fact that they could not be with me. There were very unexpected situations I did not understand. I thought I had a strong faith, but I found myself so hopeless that I wondered if God was there. Day after day, I did my best to hold on, learning to live by faith, wondering why this was happening to me.
There is a well-known poem about a person who started his journey with God by his side, leaving two sets of footprints in the sand behind them. But looking back in his lowest and saddest times, he saw only one set of footprints instead of two. He began to doubt that God had been with him during these times. But God answered him: “During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
This poem became true for me this year.
One day during a difficult period, life became very dark and heavy for me. I fell asleep trying my best to choose to believe and thank God even if I felt bad. When I woke up I felt like God had given me new strength. I remembered that I had people in my life who clearly love me deeply. I experienced so much goodness that it reminded me of all that God has given me in life. How could I have forgotten! He has given me so much, and He made it possible for me to give and bless the others too, according to His will.
I learned that there is no better solution to my problems than doing good for the others, instead of thinking only about my own situation. There is so much that I can do, instead of wondering why these things are happening to me. And the things that I don’t understand, I can leave them in God’s hands, knowing that He will take care of them.
I didn’t feel I had much to give, but a smile, a hug and some kind deeds, spending time with others who need a friend – that is something that can be a blessing for others.
My struggles did not disappear all at once, but God’s Word is true: “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” Acts 20:35 (GNT). It made me very happy and gave me strength to go through my trials, and it had a healing effect that is hard to describe. It wasn’t something that I could have understood and done on my own. Looking back, it was clear that it was God who lifted me up from my darkness, carried me through and gave me the power to use my life for something good instead.
I have seen that what gives me most joy, is not just that I can bless the others. It is the fact that I myself can grow and change. When I thought that I had a strong faith in God, He showed me how little faith I had, so that I could grow to a much stronger faith. When I thought that I had reached my limits, God showed me that He can make it possible for me to bear more than I knew I could bear.
When I asked, “What have I done to deserve this?” I learned that a servant must think only of giving, without expecting something in return, and must always remember that there is more that he can give. There was growth and life within me even during difficult times, and that made me content and happy and very excited about life.
An old friend once told me how life has always been a good and joyful journey for him. I looked at his relaxed and happy face, thinking of all that he has been through: financial problems and many other difficult times, being misunderstood and treated wrongly. Now I understand what he meant: it was not that life was always “good and easy”, but he had decided to accept everything in life as the very best that God can give him. And because he believed this, he tasted God’s goodness.
Now, at the end of this year, I again thought of my friend’s words and was filled with thankfulness. It has not been the “good” year that I would have planned. It was difficult at times, but it gave me much more than I could have asked for.
I wonder what next year will be like. Judging from the past years, I know it will be better than what I can expect. “Life is a joyful journey,” I think. It is going to be another happy new year.