You know how at the beginning of a new year, people are making resolutions concerning one, or even several, habits they want to form or break?
I’ve never really been into that, because well….I didn’t want to deal with failing to fulfill my resolutions. So I never made any. I’m not sure that is any better, really, but….
In 2016, I decided to go along with an idea I’d heard from an online community I’m a part of.
Instead of making a resolution, I claimed one word that I wanted to be a theme, or more like a personal focus for the year. I decided to find a Scripture that went along with the word to give me Biblical grounds, emphasis, motivation, etc.
I did it again in 2017 as well, but chose a different word.
In 2018, I rebelled and ignored the whole concept.
You see, I felt like my choices in 2016 (joy) and 2017 (communicate) were not exactly successful. When I look back at those years, I can’t say that I was really shining with joy or communication. In fact, it kind of felt like those failed resolutions I was trying to avoid.
So in 2018, I didn’t choose a word. Ironically, the last couple of days, as I think back on the year that is ending, I feel like I was somewhat aimless. As if I didn’t have a clear focus and direction most of the time, but rather just kind of meandering through the twelve months. Maybe not choosing a word, in a way, actually became the descriptor of my year. [Sigh]
Well 2019 is almost in my grasp, and I’ve chosen my one word. Actually, I’ve known it for a couple of weeks now. Funny how skipping a year didn’t deter me from choosing a word for this year. (Or maybe it motivated me to get back into it….)
Though I may not have been the poster child for joy or communication in ‘16 & ‘17, I can say that I improved in those areas. I can say that those ideas were (and still) more at the forefront of my mind than they had ever been in the past. And now, I’m ready to jump into this new year with a new focus.
Hope is my word for 2019.
In the past, I’ve confessed my pessimism. So, hope is rarely a natural reaction for me. I have to choose to be hopeful. I know some of you out there live a life characterized by hope. I don’t fully understand it. Sometimes I think you are crazy and foolish. Sometimes I feel insanely jealous of your ability.
Generally speaking, I have a hard time allowing myself to fully hope for things. I can constantly be heard couching statements with if demonstrating a small amount of doubt, or at least acceptance that something may not happen.
If there is any character in the Bible who I identify with, it is the father of a demon-possessed boy in Mark 9. Jesus told this guy that everything is possible for him who believes. And the man replies, I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief! He believed, but yet he didn’t believe. This may not seem to make sense to some people, but to me, I feel that statement in my heart so deeply.
Of course I know God can do anything. But sometimes I struggle to really, truly, fully hope that He will do that anything for me.
I want 2019 to be different. I want it to be the year that marks when I learn to hope. The year I say if at the beginning of my statements less frequently than before. The year that I speak confidently about the future which I believe God is leading me into, rather than keeping the ideas quietly in my head or deep in my heart.
When looking for a theme verse to go along with the idea of hope, I landed on Acts 2:26. But I want to share it with you in its context.
Acts 2:25-28 says:
I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.
As I look at my life, I know that God has always been before me. He is at my right hand, leading me forward, so I do not need to be shaken. I can be confident in what I know is true, according to His Word. I can be confident in what He is calling me to do. I do not need to fear or doubt, when I know He has led me to the places I find myself in this life.
So, my heart is glad, regardless of any challenges or unknowns. I speak words of praise to God for what He has done and what He will do. My body rests in hope. I don’t have to carry the weight of this life’s burdens on my own shoulders. I can place them on His much stronger shoulders, and let my body rest, as I put my full hope in Him and what He has in store, because He will not abandon me. God will not call me to do something or be somewhere, and then leave me on my own to figure it out. I can have hope, and even joy, in His presence on the paths of my life.
I just love the image verse 26 puts in my mind, of letting my body rest in hope.
Have you ever been given a chair or a bench to sit on that you just weren’t sure would do the job and hold you up? Living in Uganda I can say that, more than ever before, there are times I question the stability of the seat presented to me. When this happens, we gingerly put a little of our body weight on the chair, as if we are testing its strength. Slowly by slowly, we relax a bit and let it hold us…or we continue to keep some of our weight on our leg.
Conversely, have you ever arrived home or in a hotel room or something when you are just exhausted, and you literally throw your whole body on the bed in a dramatic catapult sort of way? In that instant you fully trust the bed to hold your full body weight with no question. You go as far as to basically let your body go limp as you hurl yourself onto the bed. You just know it will hold you up. You literally rest in that hope.
That’s the kind of hope Acts 2:26 is talking about.
This passage in Acts 2 is actually a quote from Psalm 16. When I looked at the passage in Psalm in various versions, the word hope doesn’t appear. Rather it says security or safety. Perfect. I absolutely love it. This hope that I am grabbing hold of as I enter 2019 is one of security. One of safety.
I have big hopes for 2019. I expect God to do big things. He has already been doing big things in the last few weeks, and I know it is just the beginning. I’m walking into this year secure enough to drop my ifs and maybes, and believe with strong hope in what God has called me to, and what He is doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do not expect this year to be easy. I do not expect it to be without challenges. I suspect I will have times when I feel totally defeated and don’t know what to do next. Yet, even with that awareness, I am choosing to have hope. To cling to the reality that God is before me and beside me all at once. That He has not abandoned me on these paths.
So my heart will be glad. My tongue will rejoice. And my body will rest. All because of the hope that I have.
Happy New Year, with big hopes for 2019!