Two Things That Will Not Change This Coming Year

I’m not sure what I was thinking last year around this time, but I’m sure I had some kind of optimistic notion about all of the ways that 2013 would be better than 2012, just as I’m trying to be optimistic about 2014 being better than 2013.


Looking ahead, there’s all kinds of stuff I want to change like being more efficient with my work so I have more time for my family or finding more reliable ways to earn freelance writing income. I want to be more generous with others and less self-serving, as well as less focused on my own little world with my insecurities and anxieties.

Actually, my goals kind of look the same from last year.

OK, they’re a carbon copy.



It’s not that I haven’t made progress. We have a lot of great stuff going on in our family. Ethan is a true joy, and I love him more than ever. My wife and I survived a really demanding fall semester for her, and we’re looking forward to several road trips this coming year that are work-related but should be fun to do together. I’ve written/co-written 3 books in 2013, and I’m excited to share them with the world in 2014.

So many good things happened in 2013. I want to be grateful for it all, but I also have this way of focusing on the stuff that didn’t quite work out. The stuff that I wish was different about our circumstances and about myself.

It’s easy to focus on the failures because they have a real weight. They sit on your heart, driving home the depths of my failures and inability to REALLY change. It’s all slow, incremental progress.

I saw a Twitter hash tag for “#BestYearEver” the other night, and it just made me depressed. Maybe I’m becoming a pessimistic New Englander at heart, but gosh, that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself.

We all want to snap out of it. We want to make progress by leaps and bounds. We want to fly out of the mire and make bold new amazing life-affirming changes. We want to leave our struggles and problems behind.

I want all of that. Don’t you?

But I wonder how many of us will just feel a bit defeated and weary at this time next year. As the optimists and life coaches on Twitter cajole us into seeing bright sparkly wonderfulness in the coming year, we’ll look back at all of the ways 2014 wasn’t the best year ever. It was just the “#MehYearEver.”

Every person is different, but here’s what I’m at with all of this…

We all live with this tension of who we are and who we hope we’ll become. We want to do big things for God, but we also struggle to pray and discern God’s will. We know the good we should do, but sometimes our sense of self-preservation, greed, or self-righteousness get in the way.

We will fail. Even if we do end up making big bold leaps forward, there will be low moments. Sometimes those low moments stretch into long periods of time that feel defeating and endless.

That’s what will never change. We’ll always struggle to one degree or another with our aspirations and God’s best for us. We’re going to fall short. At one point or another, we’re going to need to confess something, maybe even something really big. We’re going to have to face shame, disappointment, and self doubt.

We could give up right now. Who wants to mess with all of that? Isn’t it safer to just scroll through Facebook in search of the outrage of the day?

As certain as it is that we’ll struggle and meet disappointment, it’s just as certain that God is right here with us in this mess. this presence of God among us is why we need Christmas every year.

We don’t need a new gadget, pair of pants, or gift card. We need the grace-filled, hope-infusing reminder that Jesus has come into our mess. He’s not surprised that we’re high maintenance and dripping with drama. He’s not disgusted by our envy, greed, or anger because he’s come to heal it all.

Don’t jump right to the cross during Christmas. Take some time to dwell in the crowded stench of the manger. If you have children, that should be really easy to imagine.

Here is God incarnate entering into our world of political intrigue, children written off as collateral damage, people enslaved, families broken by addiction, parents distracted by smart phones, and children searching for something to believe in. God is right here in our disappointments, anxieties, and fears.

This coming year may not be the best year ever. But I wonder if we are using the wrong measurement for the “best year ever.”

We can’t change the fact that we will struggle.

By the same token, we can’t change the fact that Jesus has come to dwell among us and is here right now.

We can’t control everything that will happen to us. We’ll catch breaks, we’ll work hard, we’ll make smart moves, mentors will support us, and we’ll fail miserably.

If we stake everything on the results of the coming year, we’ll most likely be disappointed in one way or another. At the very least we’ll stir up a lot of anxiety trying to control circumstances in this big chaotic world.

Do you want the best year ever?

Try this: Convince yourself every morning that Jesus is with you.

This is not rocket science. It’s the big promise he made to his disciples before his ascension.

He’s with us until the end of the age.

I know that the Star Wars prequels were terrible and Miley Cyrus was almost voted TIME’s person of the year, but shockingly the world has not come to an end. What can I say? God made this world of sturdy stuff.

Try as you may, you can’t change the presence of Jesus. We will struggle to pray. We will doubt the presence of Jesus. We will go through circumstances that make it appear untrue.

But Christmas is our annual opportunity to once again take hold of the truth that God is indeed among us and is mighty to save us even if we’re going through the worst year ever.

Whether you face storms or sunshine in the coming year, Jesus will be there.

We cannot change our struggles, but that doesn’t change God’s presence.

4 thoughts on “Two Things That Will Not Change This Coming Year

  1. Herm

    Having time to ruminate at the end of the year, at one’s birthday, at someone’s passing, at the end of a meal, during every holiday, and throughout every child of God’s Sabbath is only possible by the grace of God. If life was left up to my human family’s, community’s and employer’s prompting alone I agree with them all that there is clearly too much to accomplish in my short life to take the time to savor. God made conscious and meditative rest seasonally and weekly a priority for His family to enjoy and appreciate His gift of our life.

    You are parenting Ethan that you may have a minute glimpse of the responsibilities of our Father in Heaven. In savoring your joy in responsibility to Ethan you just begin to see the joy of responsibility our Lord God savors during His rest times with you. As a child of God you can only do the best you can, with God’s and the surrounding community of your choice’s support, that Ethan (born physically and temporally from your genes) can accept the graceful invitation into the eternal spiritual family headed by our hallowed Father in Heaven.

    Should Ethan realize that his life can be savored and shared in relationship with his physical and spiritual family, and such time will always be available, he will be graced with the understanding that last year, this year, and next year make up just three contiguous years of the best eternal life possible. Ethan will look forward to an eternal life of learning from failures to build upon eventually taken for granted success to faithfully stride toward the next seemingly insurmountable step.

    All life is an opportunity that every one of us has the ability to understand that we didn’t choose it, we can’t control it and yet we can choose to savor it even in the worst of moments. Those of us who believe they are in full control of anything are not children of God and cannot see the hand of our loving Father working in their singularly unique and individual lives all the while a minute temporal living cell within the body of Man. What of any of our lifetime of accomplishments and experiences is worthy of savoring alone when not shared with our Father who only through His shared omnipotence and omnipresence can this all be put in perspective so we welcome the next step?

    This last year was my best yet even if only because it is that much more of life I can add to my sum total. I anxiously look forward to the next because it will certainly be different from all before it and productively additive to who I am and we are on into eternity. How do I know when to rest and appreciate when time is no longer counted by this Earth’s rotation around its sun? I can trust my Father to be there to take my hand and walk me through every new year of eternity because He has consistently done so for 69 Earth years here, often carried on His shoulders. I am a child and not yet able to earn my worth in this His kingdom but I can always choose to pause and enjoy His nurture.

    I can’t write nor form my feelings and thoughts as well as you but my sincerity is no less and no greater than yours to grow into reality. There are a lot of us trying to live in truth and love. I pray that we can unite to share even more next year than we were able this year. Thank you dear God for the Internet at a time where I can enjoy the challenge of so many other hearts and minds all from the security of my home. Just that alone makes each year of sharing an ever expanding experience of additional truth and love.

    Thank you Ed for your honesty to us, to God and most importantly to yourself/yours! Happy New Year!

  2. Suzanne Burden

    Thankful for this reminder, Ed. I’ve been asking the question “What is it I really want?” after so many disappointments. In the end, I know it is wholeness and shalom. And I know that the presence of Jesus, my shepherd, offers the very thing I most need.

Comments are closed.