For Zechariah and Elizabeth of Luke 1, they had had so many years go by that were just like the ones before. Their lives had assumed a rhythm of normalcy that they had embraced. I’m sure they had long ago accepted that there would be no children to grace their home, although the shame and the sting of it still hurt.
And then in one day, everything changed. Zechariah’s name got called to offer incense in the temple. An angel showed up to speak with him after four hundred years of silence in Israel. And Elizabeth was suddenly pregnant after years of infertility.
Their lives would never be the same.
Some of us, as we look at the upcoming new year, would like it to be the “year where everything changes.” We’re tired of the way things have been for so long, and we long for God to intervene and change them. Our weary bones ache at the thought of this coming year being like the previous year—and the one before that—and the one before that.
But God doesn’t promise to show us what kind of year it will be—a year where it changes or a year where it stays the same. And this is the most challenging part of faith. We have to trust that either option is a part of God’s good and loving plan for our lives and be faithful to him as one or the other unfolds before us.
Recently, as I reflected on the great love of God shown to us through the sending of his Son, I realized that he has appointed this time of my life out of his great love. Not out of spite or malice or indifference—but out of deep, compassionate love. These quiet mornings of reflection and contemplation? Appointed by God. These moments of tearful sorrow? Appointed by God. These opportunities for teaching, writing, reading, mentoring, and serving? Appointed by God.
All of these days have been appointed to show me the great love of God and draw me closer to him.
About five or six years ago, a couple of my sisters and I sat down on New Year’s Eve to write out our goals for the year. I remember how one of them said, “Maybe this is the year that we get married.” And we smiled over the thought and sort of wrote it into our hopes for the year.
And that was the year that my sister got cancer (thankfully the doctors were able to remove it and it didn’t continue to spread). The next year, however, she said, “That’s the last time I ‘forecast’ getting married!”
In a couple more years, though, she did meet a wonderful man, and they got married. We just had no way of knowing when that was going to happen. And in each of those years, God’s sovereign plan was unfolding, and he was drawing us closer to him through the hard times and the good times.
So, what if this is the year where everything changes? What if this is the year when you meet “the one”? What if there’s a new baby? What if there’s a new job or a move or a promotion? What if there’s a sickness or a death? What if there’s another national or global disaster? What if there’s more sorrow than you think you can handle? What if there’s more joy than you ever expected?
God will meet you in the midst of that change. He will lead you through the valleys and across the mountaintops. He will reveal new measures of grace, especially because change is challenging (whether good or bad). He will remind you of his breathtaking work in writing new chapters to your story. And he will never leave your side when you feel overwhelmed, and your brain is working hard to process all that is new and different and exciting.
And what if this is the year where things don’t change? What if you keep getting up and going to bed at the same exact times? What if your job is the same routine day in and day out? What if you don’t meet anyone new and you don’t move and you don’t change your hairstyle? What if you keep eating at the same restaurants and you keep going to the same place for vacation and you continue hanging out with the same friends?
God will meet you in the midst of that routine. He will keep leading you forward on the road that stretches straight ahead for as far as you can see. He will reveal new beauties in old rhythms, and he will reveal more of himself in the quiet moments of sameness than you ever thought possible. He will guide you to deeper trust in him when you feel frustrated at the lack of change in your life. And he will never leave your side through the quiet tears and the steadfast prayers and the constancy of a faithful life.
As I will soon be writing about, we can choose to change and grow as individuals, even if the rest of our lives aren’t changing. That was what I did this last year, and I’m thankful for the ways that God helped me to grow, even when the world seemed like a mess around me. My areas of growth probably don’t seem earth-shattering to others. But they are significant to who I am and who I’m becoming as a woman of God.
And this is my prayer for 2022—that whether it’s a year of great change or a year where it mostly stays the same, that I would be faithful to what God has called me to. May I carry out my daily duties with diligence while also taking bold steps of risk and faith forward in my callings.
Let us not set our sights on certain “events” happening in the new year, but rather on a deeper relationship with Christ, a greater love for his people, a further pursuit of his Kingdom work. And if the Lord brings change as part of his plan for our lives, may we quietly accept and honor him through it. And if he brings constancy, may we also quietly accept and honor him through it.
All glory to his name.