“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil,” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
The Ad Council and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unveiled a campaign last year with the motto, “You never know when the day before is the day before.” I could speak on that topic for hours. Most of us can look back on a painful event or a defining moment. It came without warning and wreaked emotional havoc when it caught us off guard and unprepared. A diagnosis, an accident, a loss, a natural disaster—ill timed and beyond our control. It did to our world as the “great fall” did to Humpty Dumpty. The nursery rhyme concludes, “And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” I would add: at least, not in the same way.
Remember the television game show, Let’s Make a Deal? The audience dressed themselves in outrageous costumes vying for the opportunity to compete for valuable prizes. Those lucky enough to move from spectator to contestant were presented several “deal” options by host Monty Hall. Often an eager contestant had his hopes dashed by a “Zonk,” a deal that turned out not to be a good deal at all. A curtain would open to reveal some undesirable prize like a pet mule or a rusty rowboat instead of a dream vacation or a new car. The humor was lost on me. It was too much like real life.
In a philosophical moment like a New Year’s reflection, many of us spend a few soul searching moments looking back on the year, remembering the good times as well as the difficult ones, totaling up our lessons learned and making note of those events that have altered our lives forever, at least on this side of eternity. I start to really miss my mother and daddy and those mentors—like my friend Gaga or my best friend’s mother, Mary—who are no longer here. I think I have always been like that. Something about turning that last page on the calendar brings to mind a mental Technicolor autobiography of my entire past as well as a thoughtful consideration of future goals and the steps I should take to make those goals reality. I have to remind myself that I have only so much control over that future. And did I mention that the future is coming at me much too fast these days?
I have said before that I do think one of God’s most gracious gifts to us is that He doesn’t reveal what’s just around the bend in our personal lives. I dare say it was because we would miss the joy of the present by dreading the “thing” that was going to happen tomorrow. Instead he gave us the certain promise that He would be there, that He would go even as far as the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” (Psalm 23) to give us exactly what we needed in that critical moment we could not control. He meant it when He said, “Fear not,” and His presence with us was evidence that whatever life could dole out, He was going to be strong where we were weak, giving us exactly what we needed to deal with the challenge (2 Corinthians 12: 9).
In my “Backdoor Lessons” talk—and the book I keep thinking I am going to get together at some point—one of my principles is to prepare for the storms of life before they happen. The only certainty about the future is that, for us in our present human form, we have no clue about what that looks like. The New Year, 2014, is out there before us all—a blank page, a question mark. What will be its challenges? What unforeseen thing will change life, as we know it?
CJ Stewart, whose story you are going to LOVE this month, says we, as individuals, can only control our attitude and our effort. Everything else is beyond us. Scary stuff if you think you are out there solo. Thank God for His mercy and grace. None of us has to face the uncertainty alone!
I think we have packed about as much encouragement into this January issue as we could possibly afford to print! We have an array of contributing writers who have outdone themselves with their take on the New Year. They have touched on about every theme related to New Years and new beginnings.
Enjoy. Take it in. Store in your mind and heart. Something tells me we are all going to need it!
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” (Lamentations 3:22-23).