My newsfeed on Facebook has been filled with negativity about 2016 ever since Christmas Day ended. This or that celebrity died, this situation in life went wrong, that job was terrible, this person was diagnosed with cancer, that situation has caused insane stress. That kid picked on my kid and this kid is saying my kid is a bully. A certain percentage seems to think Donald Trump is the anti-Christ. On and on, etc., etc. I made a post on Facebook a few days ago saying I thought 2016 had been just fine until I saw that 139 police officers had been killed in the line of duty this year. It seems that the majority of people have at least one complaint about 2016.
How do you measure how good or bad a year is?
Thus proving we are a shallow society engulfed in our emotions. How often I’m tempted to think the collective level of “happiness” associated with my situation actually defines whether or not my situation is good. Perhaps the problem is the definition of good. Is something good if I approve of it, or is something good because it leads to a more well-rounded person?
If good is merely the totality of my circumstances, then the definition of good will never be constant. It might be good today, but if tomorrow is even better, then the definition changes to suit the day. If tomorrow is worse, then good is defined by yesterday, even though two days from now might take over the definition. You see the problem, I presume.
If the latter is the definition, then there’s a great chance that those situations we are tempted to believe are ‘bad’ could potentially be leading us into a deeper life as a more equipped, able, and prepared person albeit via difficult circumstances. The book of Job gives the account of a man who had it all, lost it all, praised God through it all, and had it returned to him tenfold (right? Tenfold? Is my memory correct on that number?). Job might have been waiting for the ball to drop to get the year in the past and look ahead toward what was coming. His circumstances were horrible, but if I had to guess, I think Job’s ability to keep perspective would have prevented him from blaming his woes simply on the year. Let’s not forget that the year has nothing to do with our circumstances. We live in a fallen world. A fallen world has everything to do with our circumstances. Sin has everything to do with our circumstances, but the story doesn’t end there. We have a decision to make. We have lots of decisions to make, actually. One is our response. One is how resolved we will be when we walk through the fire. One is whether or not we will accept personal responsibility as opposed to placing blame elsewhere.
Growth has never been easy or comfortable. I remember growing as a teen. I shot up in height over a short amount of time. I was sore for about two years straight because of how much I was growing. How much greater is the pain of spiritual and personal growth at times. Our resolve as a nation is weakening. Our ability to press on is weakening. I’m personally part of a generation (Millennials) that moves on quickly if we don’t have the sense that we’re making an impact. We believe that this must not be for us if we don’t see results by the end of the three minutes we type in on the microwave. We are where we are for a reason. That reason might be that we’re blowhards who ignore the gentler nudges of the Lord and we have therefore landed ourselves in a mell of a hess. The reason might be because we need to be reminded that none of this was ever about us, but instead it’s always been about the glory of the Lord. Maybe we are where we are because we’ve been faithful to the Lord, but there still isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel on any of this making sense. In Philippians 3 Paul nails down that we have no confidence in the flesh. Still, “we press on to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (verse 14).
This life is not the prize. It never has been the prize, and it never will be the prize. Our prize is in heaven. Our reward lies there, not here. No matter how good we deem the good days, they still aren’t our reward. They’re blessings, but they aren’t rewards. Our bad days aren’t punishments. They might very well be discipline to help us get back on track so that we can reach the prize, but the bad days aren’t punishments for not having good days. They’re bad days. They’re bad seasons. They’re growing pains. They’re the result of a fallen world that turned to sin instead of communion with the Lord.
And so we press on into a new year. 2016 was not a bad year. It was a year — just as all the other years were years. Our situations and our levels of personal happiness do not define the greatness of a year. But y’know, if anything, maybe the year was great because the good Lord in his infinite mercy didn’t obliterate a nation that remains hellbent. We have improvements to make – no doubt. We had difficult times as a nation – no doubt. But for those of us who are disciples of Jesus, let’s not forget the big picture. To quote Billy Graham, I’ve read the last page of Revelation. It’s all going to turn out okay. This world is not our home. This world is not our prize. Press on.