It is a well-intentioned phrase, but one that some fear may cause more harm than good: “This is your year!” Many may have sat in a church service at the beginning of a new year where a well-meaning pastor instructs everyone to turn to their neighbor and tell them, “this is your year.” Obliging, everyone proclaims that it is everyone’s simultaneous year of blessing and prosperity. However, another year goes by, and while some congregants seemed to have followed that self proclamation in going through an amazing year, others are confused by the hard times the year brought. And again, they find themselves sitting in the sanctuary as the pastor gives them the freedom to lament of the previous year, to which each person quickly turns to their neighbor and once again proclaims, “this is your year.”
Another year goes by, and while some congregants seemed to have followed that self proclamation in going through an amazing year, others are confused by the hard times the year brought.
I had not thought much of this cycle until I heard a Christian celebrity jokingly respond to the notion of “this is your year” by stating the obvious that not everybody will experience the same thing at the same time. Using popular Christian lingo, this equates to the idea that not everyone will be in the same “season” at the same time. Not everyone will be reaping a bountiful harvest at the same time. Not everyone will be sowing at the same time. Not everyone will be in a bitter winter at the same time. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (v. 1). This passage relays both joyful and painful events that are inevitable in this life. It serves as a reminder that our years may contain both joy and pain, which can both be crucial.
It is important to clarify that this does not mean we should not expect, pray for, or hope for great things, nor that should we stop standing on the promises of God as we step into a new year. However, it does mean that in the midst of clinging to the promises of God and praying for things we hope to see come to pass, we recognize God as good no matter what happens or how long it takes. It means that when others are receiving blessings we longed for ourselves, we can trust that God is no less good or faithful to us than He is to them. It means that we can appreciate the purpose of the difficult seasons, as much, or maybe even more than the seasons of joy and prosperity – for the lessons and growth that they bring. It also serves as a reminder that even when we face trials or pain, it does not mean that our life is out of alignment with the will of God. Can you imagine telling Paul the apostle, “Hey Paul, this is your year!”, as he sat in a jail cell enduring persecution? In that immediate moment in time, as he sat in literal chains, it probably did not appear that things were going his way. Yet, He was obeying God and allowed himself to be used and inspired by the Holy Spirit even then, as He wrote much of what now comprises the New Testament. The time was not wasted.
Even when we face trials or pain, it does not mean that our life is out of alignment with the will of God.
It is interesting to think of what I learned nearly a decade ago when it came to standing on the promises of God during the hardest year of my life. During that year, my family suffered a tragic loss in which I could have been tempted to think I had the “right” to be upset with God for our suffering. Reflecting back on that time, however, I can recognize God’s upholding promises, in the midst of immense pain. In my preteens and with little knowledge of God’s Word at the time, I clung to the words of a seemingly cheesy, Christian radio song, which said, “You never said the road would be easy, but You said that You would never leave. You never promised that this life wasn’t hard, but you promised You’d take care of me.” Through a time of loss and the difficult years that followed, God’s Word had not returned void.
I had never been promised that I would not suffer or experience difficulty. In fact, Jesus clearly foretold, or promised, that “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33). However, the mysterious beauty to such a promise is that no matter what troubles come in this year, in this world, we can “take heart because He has overcome the world” (John 16:33). We can also find further comfort in the promise that God will never forsake us and will be with us through every joyful, mundane, or painful experience (Heb.13:5). Surely, not every moment of the year will be easy, even as we reflect on such verses, but we can know that every moment can somehow be endured.
I have found great comfort in the fact that Jesus, through the incarnation, experienced human life, in all of its ups and downs. He experienced 33 years, of which we only know a small portion. However, we do know that throughout His years on earth Jesus surely experienced joy, being a part of a family, hunger, physical pain, emotional pain, temptation, friendship, mockery, betrayal, loss, and even death. Thus, whatever we endure, we know that He will be there to empathize with us (Heb. 4:15). At different points in my life, as I’ve whispered, or even, honestly, grumbled in prayer – “Lord, this is hard” – the Holy Spirit has gently reminded me that Christ is familiar with hard and He will be there to help me. Similarly, He is familiar with the joys of this life and will celebrate with us in the sweet moments.
Whatever we endure, we know that He will be there to empathize with us (Heb. 4:15).
Finally, there is one last thing that is important to note about the well-meaning, but misleading phrase, “This is your year!” I would challenge, no year is truly meant to be “ours.” While I know this is not quite what the phrase is suggesting, I believe the verbiage, may cause us to lose sight that our lives, let alone our years, are not our own. Our lives were bought by Christ and we are called to submit our lives, our years, to Him. Thus, I want to challenge us to submit not only 2020 to Him, but every year, even the years gone past that are now beyond our control, to Him. As we pray for open doors, opportunities, fulfilled promises, and blessings this year, may we count even the trials that come as joy. May we trust Him no matter what may unfold, clinging to His promise that we are never without His presence or hope. May we recall that no matter what may occur during our years on this earth, we have the hope of eternal years with Christ. May we turn to our neighbor, support one another, and proclaim together, “Lord, this is Your year.”