If you feel like you are limping into 2024, you are not alone. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate all the motivation and encouragement to start the year off strong. I, too, have eaten my weight in sugar and cheese over the holidays, and I, too, am looking for ways to reset, recharge, and recommit. I'm definitely wanting to jump on the wagon with everyone else who is resolving to eat healthier, exercise more regularly, and read through the Bible this year. I want to do better, be better, live my Best. Life. Yet.
But the transition from 2023 to 2024 feels a bit shaky for me, and I'm having trouble finding my footing. Anxiety and grief from this previous year are weighing on me as I take my fist steps into this new year. Most days, I feel like I'm stumbling alongside the moving wagon of good intentions but can't seem to actually get enough momentum to hurl myself on it. Maybe you can relate?
New Year's Resolutions are about modifying and improving things we can control: our behaviors, routines, and habits. That's why the motivation and inspiration this time of year can be really effective, at least for awhile. Change requires effort. So we keep showing up. We do the hard work to grow, to get healthier, to repeat the desired actions that will create the positive habits that will produce a better life.
God grant me the courage to change the things I can.
But what about all the things we can't control? For some of us, the promise of a new, better year is over-shadowed by the difficult circumstances rolling into the new year with us. Just as our troubles didn't magically disappear over the holidays, they aren't going to vanish into thin air in 2024. We may be facing hard realities we are powerless to change and, for a few of us, may even grow harder with each passing day, week, and month of the new year. Some of my friends are caring for aging parents or spouses whose health is rapidly declining. My mom was diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer eleven years ago, right before Thanksgiving, and by Christmas we knew it was both inoperable and incurable. As we looked ahead to that new year, it wasn't through the lens of high hopes and new dreams; rather, we couldn't help but wonder what kind of grief awaited us. What would Easter and Mother's Day look like? During which month would we be saying our goodbyes and planning her funeral?
Some of us are walking through some terribly difficult seasons right now. What we need, more than anything else, is peace. But how can we have peace when life around us is in chaos? When broken relationships, financial hardship, addictions, sickness, mental illness--and a whole slew of troubles we cannot control or fix--touch us and the ones we love, keeping us up at night and following us through our days like a dark shadow? Where can we find peace when life is a mess?
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
I don't know about you, but when I am craving peace I look for reassurance in what is observable. Measurable. Tangible. I want to see something with my eyes and hear certain words with my ears. I want concrete data.
How would you finish this sentence?
If only ________________________________________________________, then I would have peace. (. . . then I could sleep well at night. . . . then I could relax and enjoy life . . . )
I hate to be the one to say it (as much to myself as to you), but if our peace is dependent on anything we wrote in that sentence above, it will remain out of reach. Sure, we may have temporary moments of relief and reassurance--glimmers of serenity--but only until the next disappointment, the next phone call bearing bad news, the next argument, the next unexpected expense, the next bad scan, the next relapse. . . . only until the next shoe drops.
Jesus offers us something truly amazing. He offers us peace that is not attached to our circumstances or particular outcomes. Peace that transcends our understanding. It is peace unlike any reassurance the world or any person can offer us. It is not dependent on what we see with our eyes or hear with our ears or experience in this life. It strips uncertainty of its power over us and guards our hearts and our minds. It is a supernatural gift.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14;27)
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
You may not be able to control what is happening around you or how 2024 unfolds, but here are some truths you can absolutely count on:
1. God is good.
2. God knows.
3. God is with us.
4. God is able. (Right now, this is my favorite attribute of God.)
There is truly no peace like the peace that Jesus gives, and it is ours for the taking. It's available to us in every moment, regardless of what is happening around us, as we keep our eyes on Him. I'm craving a peace that is more than fleeting. I'm longing for a sustaining, enduring peace as I abide in His love and steadfastly trust in Him.
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
My prayer for 2024 is that we would indeed have courage and strength to grow, improve, and change the things we can; and for all that is outside the scope of our control. may we grow in our ability to trust our good, loving, all-knowing, always-with-us, all-powerful God. May each new day bring us closer to Him as we let His peace rule in our hearts and minds (Colossians 3:15).
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time,
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it,
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will,
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
-written by Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, in the early 1930s
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