For the past eight years, I have chosen “One Word” to focus on in the new year. It has been a practice that has benefited me greatly and the Lord has used it in many ways to strengthen me and to cause growth. As 2019 was ending, I was hopeful that 2020 would be a better year. 2019 was not an easy year for me. It was full of sickness and death of loved ones as well as personal challenges and struggles. I was hopeful that 2020 would bring resolution to ongoing issues and that there would be more joy than sorrow. As I prayed about what word to choose for the year, the Lord led me to “steadfast” based on 1 Corinthians 15:58, my life verse.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
I knew that whatever would happen in 2020, the Lord was asking me to be steadfast in my purpose of loving Him and serving Him. No matter what.
It became clear pretty quickly that 2020 was not going to be a year of ease, but rather an uphill climb. Rather than resolving, issues got worse. And worse. And worse. But the Lord kept whispering to my heart, keep being faithful! Be steadfast! And then March came and a global pandemic shook our world. My plans to visit my Mom over spring break were thwarted. Personal heartbreak, attacks on my family, the increase in racial and political tensions, and watching so many loved ones on the brink of despair threatened to overwhelm me. I spent many sleepless nights crying out to the Lord.
And then, through His Word, the Lord shifted my thinking on the word “steadfast” and it became less about me and more about Him. Over and over again, I read in the Psalms about the Lord’s steadfast love. I read about how when everyone or everything fails, he remains steadfast. I read about his steadfast love being new every morning. My perspective shifted and I began to see it everywhere. He would never leave me because He is a steadfast God. He sees my weaknesses and my sins, yet he loves me with an enduring love. I don’t have to earn it. I don’t have to prove that I am worthy of love. He loves me always and forever!
One day in the midst of all of the heartbreak and loss of 2020, I decided to write out all of the ways I have witnessed the steadfast love of God in my life. I filled pages in my journal and it ended up being a beautiful exercise for me. I wrote things like this… “He caused my parents to choose life for me despite the doctor’s encouragement to abort me because of possible birth defects.” “He gave me a close bond with my earthly father so that I came to love the Word of God.” “He led me to Australia and used that time to confirm to me that my life was to be devoted to serving Him.” “He preordained that I would meet the love of my life when he was on my brother floor my sophomore year (at Moody Bible Institute). He lovingly brought Dave and I to the same place of not looking to a relationship to fulfill us, but rather looking to God alone to be our everything. He graciously caused our hearts to be woven together in friendship and then to a deep and abiding love.” “His plans for us led us to Greenwich, CT, where Dave would serve as an associate pastor for four years. The biggest blessing for me personally was living close to Mom and Dad in Pennsylvania and being able to visit them frequently.” “He has always been faithful, why start to worry now?”
This shift in perspective became an anchor for me as the storms of 2020 continued to rage. There would be more difficulties ahead, but I was clinging to the steadfast love of the Lord and as a result, there was hope and joy in the midst of the tears. His steadfast love for me allowed me to respond with a steadfast trust in Him. I knew He would be faithful and I was convinced that I would follow Him no matter where He led.
We had to walk through some dark valleys this year. We continue to mourn the loss of friendships and the deaths of so many that we loved, including my precious Mama. I never did get to see her in person again, but we were blessed with a sweetness in our relationship that is an absolute GIFT to me. It was easier to accept the Lord’s steadfast love for me through the trials of 2019 and 2020, because I was blessed with the unconditional love of my Mom. She would cry with me and pray with me and for me. She was a rock for me this year and when she started to desire more and more to be with Jesus, we were able to share that as well. I told her that I think the Lord kept her here longer than she might have liked because He knew that I would need her. This thought was a blessing for both of us. To the very end, she blessed me with her beautiful life.
As this year comes to an end, I am no longer looking for the new year to be better than the previous one. My feet have been firmly planted on the rock of the Lord’s steadfast love and so I know that no matter what comes my way, He will walk by my side through it all. And that will be enough.
I wrote down this quote from one of the books I read this year- Hope when it Hurts by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton.
Don’t give up or give way to despair, for there is a glorious treasure to be found when the pain of this world drives us to Jesus and it is of far greater worth than any earthly relief.
I have been praying about my “One Word” for 2021 and have settled on “peace”. I look forward to what the Lord wants to teach me through this focus in the new year!
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27
Happy New Year! May the Lord overwhelm you with His steadfast love and grant you peace!