Reflections for the new year

Have you ever pondered all that has happened in the course of one year? I often do, especially as a new year is about to begin. As 2018 comes to a close, I look back at both its joys and challenges. Things like being sick with influenza, finishing my thesis and successfully defending it come readily to mind. Heartaches like the death of loved ones and the sickness of others bring tears. Joyful graduation celebrations and special time with friends and family bring smiles. Work completed and tasks accomplished produce gratitude to God for strength and guidance given in me. Thinking back through the ordinary days and all the gifts they contained create in me awe and wonder at what God has done. I invite you to pause a moment now and reflect on your 2018. What was joyful? What was painful? What was expected? What was a surprise?

In the past as a new year began, I often anticipated what that year would hold. Occasionally, I was correct; for example I did complete my doctorate last year. Usually, however, I am wrong. Over time, I have learned that each new year holds much that cannot be anticipated. Most of the joyful and the sad things in life come with no prior hints. They simply come as we live out our lives each day. This is a good thing. If we knew the sorrows ahead, we might spend unnecessary days in worry. If we knew the joyous things to come, our anticipation of them might distract us from living in the present and seeing the gifts in the present hour. Even so, there are two things we can know with certainty about each coming year. Change will come. And God will be with us.

Now I realize that for some people change is a bad or a scary word. Change often feels uncomfortable. I sometimes find myself irritated by the littlest changes, like items in a new location in the grocery store or a new time for a TV show. We tend to forget that change is also good. Change brings renewal. It brings challenge. Without change, we would die–literally. I recently read that our bodies mostly replace themselves every seven to fifteen years. A few bits are never replaced, but others like the lining of our stomachs and intestines are renewed much faster. Due to the constant wear and tear from the process of digestion, these cells have an average lifespan of just five days. If the cells in our bodies did not change, we would die. Change is an important part of life. It is necessary, and it is inevitable. What changes are ahead in 2019 in our lives? We cannot know. We only know changes will come. Some changes will seem good; others will seem hard or difficult.

The one thing that will not change is God. The Bible tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow” (Hebrews 13:8.) God will be with us in and through all the changes of life–both the joyous ones and the sad ones. Not only will God be with us through them, God will be working in and through all things in our lives for our good. As it says in Romans 8:28, “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him and are called according this his purpose.” As difficult as the stormy changes are, God is not only with us in them to see us through, God is also transforming us through them, making us stronger or more compassionate.

Because God does not change and because God is with us, we can look forward to the new year with his peace in our hearts. As they saying goes, we may not know what the new year holds, but we know who holds it. May the peace and assurance of Christ who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow fill your hearts and minds throughout 2019. Amen and Amen.

Pastor Diann O’Bryant is minister of Gilman United Methodist Church, 312 Gilman St., Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Stephanie Ward at 740-373-2121, ext. 537, or sward@mariettatimes.com. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer’s convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.

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