If you are anything like me, the past few days, your social media newsfeeds have been filled with New Year’s Resolutions, sentimental posts about the old year, and excited anticipation for the new year. With the touchdown of the ball in Times Square, ushered in by champagne, countdowns, and New Years kisses, all of the world’s problems from the previous year are magically erased between 11:59:59 PM and 12:00:00 AM.
As for me, I have remained atypically silent on social media for the past few days while I reflected over the past year. I wish I could say that my reflection was over all of the incredible moments I had last year, but alas, I cannot boast such fortune. As I thought back over the previous 365 days, I realized that there was not a single moment I had that was one hundred percent good. This year, Joy was not allowed to enter the room unchaperoned by Grief. They walked hand-in-hand, leaving behind them a trail of tainted memories.
Having left me, quite literally, on crutches, the past year beat me up both physically and emotionally and I was very relieved to see it come to an end. I look back on the old year like an out of breath king, standing on a hill overlooking the burning city from which he barely escaped with his life.
But every time I found myself thinking about how bad things had been, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (NIV). Everything. I asked myself the question, “Do I believe this verse? If so, do I believe that God can make everything beautiful?”
The truth is that God can indeed take the year that I have had and make something beautiful out of it. Not only can He, but I am confident that He will. It is easy to look back on the good years and praise God for them, but it is much, much more difficult to look back on the bad ones and praise Him. I am reminded of Job’s response to his friends in Job 2:10, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” Despite having lost everything, Job still understood that God’s plan for us is not always easy.
Even though it does not always feel like it, I know that the Lord has a plan for my life and that this last year was as much a part of that plan as any other year in my life. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
As I reflected on last year, I had to remind myself of 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” The problem is that our doubts have this nasty tendency to sneak in and point out everything wrong; to make us believe that we actually can see the whole picture, even though much of it is masked from our view.
The question remains, however, what next? Where do I go from here? That defeated king watching his city burn has a choice. He can wallow in his defeat or he can rebuild.
Did you know that ancient cities used to build over top of their own rubble? Whenever the city was destroyed from a war or natural disaster, they wouldn’t clear the debris, they would just build on top of it, forming what archeologists now call a “Tel” (mound). Archeologists say that every hundred years or so a city would be completely leveled by some significant event. As those who escaped the destruction returned, they did not have the means to clear the hunks of rubble, so instead they built on top of them. Every time the city was rebuilt, the Tel would get higher.
Now this method of rebuilding was actually quite intelligent. Often times the original city had already been strategically placed in the most advantageous location, making it pointless to move. In addition, the higher your city was elevated from the ground, the harder it was for it to be laid siege to. Every time the city was rebuilt, it became harder to destroy. The saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” has become popular recently, but that sentiment has been around for ages and the Tel is a great example of this. The very fact that the city had been destroyed strengthened it.
The time has come for me to build up my Tel. Last year left me defeated and destroyed, but this year I can rebuild. You see, God does not allow trials into our life for no reason. As I look into the coming year, I think about God's promise to make everything beautiful and I choose to rebuild. There is no need to clear the rubble when it can be used to make me stronger.
If you find yourself with your walls broken down and your city destroyed at the start of this new year, take heart! Remember Jesus' words in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
As you begin the process of rebuilding your walls this January, I want to leave you with one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Isaiah 55:9-13. I encourage you to notice God's promise in it to make everything beautiful.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”