1Timothy 4:7-10 “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
If you could choose one word to use as a label for your year in 2016, what would it be? I know mine. It would be determined.
I started this year with a desire to break away from everything that reeked in the previous year. My mind was set as far as resolutions go, that as far as it depended on me, physical pain was not going to be my master. That might sound weird to people who haven’t lived with chronic pain, but this is where I was at. As far as I was even remotely able to this year, I went to the gym three times a week. If I was in pain, I didn’t really care, I was going anyway. If I was utterly exhausted (which I generally was since I have been anemic most of the year), I didn’t care, I was going anyway. Sometimes that meant slow cycling with my eyes closed, but at least I was moving. Sometimes that meant leaving the gym feeling worse off than when I started- but for me, it was a way of taking back control. It was a way of saying that pain could never bring me back to that horrifying black corner of helplessness. Get me as far away from that corner as possible. Basically, exercise was my way of kicking pain in the face.
I also went back to university this year and took a Creative Writing course, which I really enjoyed. Sure, completing each writing assignment meant my hands ached for a week, but once again, I did not really care. I was determined. Pressing on. Taking my life back. Kicking pain in the face.
And treatments. I tried so many treatments that it is almost funny, just trying to keep on functioning.
Often I have not tempered my determination with open hands. At times I have had this huge piece of my heart that just hasn’t wanted to trust God’s will in this area, to be honest. My eyes have been on temporary things so often that they don’t feel temporary anymore. When we set our eyes on temporary things, they simply take over our whole view.
It has been the most difficult part of my Christian life, to balance determination and contentment, or in other words, to balance desire and surrendering. There is nothing wrong with my wanting to be free of life hindering health issues, and there’s nothing wrong with setting goals and striving for them with determination.
But it’s wrong to want something so badly that you are no longer willing to accept your circumstances when God doesn’t give you what you want. It’s wrong to stop trusting Him in an area and to go chasing after it apart from Him. And it’s wrong when you put more effort into reaching temporary goals, goals that don’t even hold a promise for you, rather than exerting much of your effort into becoming more like Christ.
Godliness has promise and value in this life and in the life to come. We laugh at guys like Joel Osteen, but many of us have better theology and still want our best life now, don’t we?
It has been a very up and down kind of year, but for certain, progress has been made. Yet I still end this year with some looming health issues and a measure of uncertainty, and trust me, that is not how I prefer to enter the New Year. I really, really, would like my determination to pay off. I want to make goals, work hard, and achieve them. I want my body to do what my will and efforts have been trying to tell it to do.
But there are going to be challenges this year, for me, and for you too. Sometimes I wish that the passing of time would also be the turning of a page, but it isn’t always that way. Sometimes we’re on that same page for what seems too long, and we just want God to close the chapter already. But I can’t go into this year making it all about me, and my wants, and my progress, while closing my heart to God’s will if His will still includes health problems and struggles. He remains in charge regardless of my attitudes, and He is the only one who really knows my heart and my needs, isn’t He?
If I put half of the amount of energy into growing spiritually as I did into trying to get healthy physically this year, there would be a drastic change in my life. I know there would be, because God is faithful to His children and His word.
God says that we should “train” for godliness, that we should “toil” and “strive,” with “our hope set on the living God.” How many of us think about that when we consider entering the New Year? If I am willing to drag myself to the gym when my body is aching and exhausted because I have a hope of one day feeling better, shouldn’t I be able to read my bible and pray when I don’t feel like it, knowing there is a certain hope of spiritual growth, reward, and of eternal life?
I need the Holy Spirit to work in my heart so desperately if I am going to be pleasing to Him. Do you feel that way this year too? Have you perhaps set your mind so much on earthly goals and plans, that you have neglected the more important things of God? Thanks be to God for His mercy, kindness, and patience toward us. He will renew us when we turn to Him in repentance and faith. Join me, and let’s cast ourselves on Him. If I could put a label on the coming year I would want it to be “surrendered.” I hope I can get through it and look back and say “this year, I surrendered my will, my plans, and my heart to God, and He was faithful,” as I know He will be.
1Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”