The Rhythms of Grace
God has placed us in a world that's got a rhythm to it. Each day has a sunrise and sunset. Each week has six days of work and a day of rest. Even the four seasons rise and fall with a predictable pattern.
This same rhythmic quality comes into play at the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another. The end of a year provides a natural opportunity to look back and remember the ups and downs of the year and all the grace received. The beginning of another provides us the opportunity to look forward to what God will do in you and through you for His glory.
To look back and remember requires faith. It requires believing that God sovereignly determined everything you experienced this year. Such exercise of faith is easier to say than to do.
In fact, knowing that God was behind everything that happened this last year is the kind of answer that raises other questions. For we don't just want to know that God was behind it all; we want to know the purpose behind what He did. We want to know the reasons for the tragedies and heartaches. We want to know the meaning underneath the joys and triumphs. In other words, we want to know the why behind the what.
Though we know something of the reasons behind what happens in our lives, we will never have the full picture in this life. John Piper was right when he said, "God is always doing 10,000 things in our life, and you may be aware of three of them." In saying that, Piper is acknowledging that God is infinite and we are finite; that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are past finding out (Psalm 145:3; Isaiah 55:8-9). Because God is God and we are not, the happenings of our life will always at some level remain mysterious.
That is not to say, however, that we can't know anything. As Piper noted, we can truly know the two or three or four things that God is doing in our life at any given point. We can know these things because God has given us His Word.
For instance, we can know that those tragedies and heartaches from this last year are to produce character and hope, for Paul tells us that, "...suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character; and character hope" (Romans 5:3-4). We know that the joys and triumphs are intended to produce thankfulness and worship to God. Paul writes, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus," (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and Moses writes, "You shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God is given you" (Deut. 26:11).
When our life experiences are brought into relationship with the truth of Scripture, the light of God's purposes begin to shine.
But what are we to make of the mysteries of life? How do we process the things we can't seem to understand? The Scripture helps us here, too. For even though we don't know the "why" for everything that happens, we know the Who behind it all. And this is the greatest assurance of all.
We know, for instance, that God is always merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love toward his people (Psalm 103:8). He will be for us a stronghold in the day of trouble and will provide a refuge for us (Nahum 1:7). Ultimately, we know this is true because He's given us an eternal refuge in His son (John 3:16), when He offered him up on the cross for our sins while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Therefore, we can rest assured that he will give us all good things (Romans 8:32) according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
As you look back over the past year and find yourself puzzling over why God did what He did, turn from what happened to the Who behind all that happened. This will strengthen you as you press into the new year before you. And when you hit confusing trials in the year ahead, and begin to doubt the goodness of God, pause and remember all you know about Him, for He is infinitely worthy of your trust.