As a book lover, my books are riddled with highlights and underlined sections. I dog-ear my pages. (Yes, I am one of those people!) In one book I read recently, I folded down the bottom corners of pages I wanted to come back to later so I could record my favorite quotes. The problem was, when I got to the end of the book, there were about forty folded down pages!
When it comes to the story of my life though, there are few pages I want to revisit. Highlighted sections are rare. I wouldn't consider it a good read and many chapters I'd like to just remove altogether.
This time of year marks a new chapter in each of our lives. The pages are fresh and unmarked. We don't know what lies ahead in our stories and can't look at the back of the book to find out. This story is one we have to live out word by word, line by line.
The question is, when you turn the page to the next chapter of your life, does it fill you with anticipation or dread? Are you hopeful for what God will do in your life this year or are you anxious?
Our stories were created before the dawn of time. God penned each day of our lives before he spoke the first word that broke light into the darkness. David wrote in Psalm 139, "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." In Ephesians 1, Paul wrote "he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."
When a new year arrives, we can look to it expecting good things or the worst of things. It all depends on how we view the Author of our lives. Do we trust God to write a good story? Do we believe that he has a good plan and good intentions for us? Do we believe that he cares about each and every paragraph, word, and punctuation in the narrative of our lives?
As a glass is half empty type of girl, I often view the future with skepticism. I expect the worst and am surprised by the good. In fact, when there is good, I assume that bad lies just around the corner. But that comes from thinking that fails to grasp the gospel. I look at my life as a series of punishments for not getting things right. I expect to be blessed when I've done right and punished when I've done wrong. But the gospel tells me otherwise. It tells me that Jesus took all my punishment for me. God has no more wrath left for me for he poured it all out on Christ. (Romans 8:1).
When a chapter in my life contains a trial or challenge, it is not God doling out punishment or retribution for something I've done. Rather that circumstance is allowed in my life for my spiritual good. The often quoted passage from Romans 8:28 tells us "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Hebrews tells us that God uses hardships in our lives as discipline. "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all...God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (vs.. 7-8, 10-11) James tells us to take joy in this training "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (1:2-4)
The story of our lives is a good story. It is one we should read with joy and gladness. Each of our individual stories are a reflection of the greater story of redemption found in Scripture and through Christ, we've been woven into that story. This grand story is of a people made in the image of their Creator. Upon making them, God remarked, "It is very good." It's the story of runaways who rejected the love of their Maker. It's the story of a Rescuer who made a way to bring them back and restore them to their Father. It's the story of love and loss, sin and redemption, brokenness and healing.
Jesus is that Rescuer who came to make all things new and to make all things sad become untrue. And as the characters in his story of redemption, he is shaping us, molding us, and transforming us into his likeness. In each new chapter, we are brought that much closer to who we were made to be. In fact, we are slowly becoming who we already are through Christ.
This is why we can approach this new year with anticipation. God is doing something good in each of us. His intentions and plans for us are good. Even if the pages that lie ahead contain challenges and heartache, it is promised and guaranteed to be used for our good and God's glory.
We can also rejoice as we look ahead to the future. Because of Christ, the victory has already been won. Eternity awaits us. Our restoration will one day be complete and the last line in the story of this life will be written. "I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6).
And then a brand new story begins, one that lasts forever.