It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m right where I want to be. Children nestled snug in their beds. And I in my living room wrapped beneath a warm blanket while the last flickers of a fire crack nearby. In this moment . . . right this second . . . all is calm. Quiet. At peace.
But the same way I know someone will spill something tomorrow, I know a new year will bring new struggles.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)
When. Not if we face trials, but when we go through them. So as we flip our lives into a new year, let’s start this one prepared, shall we?
Undaunted by deep waters.
Ready for rivers of difficulty.
Fearless in the face of the fire.
Are you with me?
In this verse in Isaiah, God talks to His people, the Israelites, as they begin their journey home. After years in captivity they rejoice at the freedom to return to their homeland. But to get there they’ll have to travel a long distance. No planes to catch. No RVs to haul their stuff.
So you can imagine the predicament this nation might have felt when they found themselves standing in front of deep waters or difficult rivers or fire. Men, women, children, livestock and all of their belongings had to find a way through these literal obstacles.
And I think we can learn a lot from them.
#1 Throw off the extra.
For most of my life I’ve struggled with bouts of anxiety. This last year the trend seemed to grow stronger. And if you’ve ever faced anxiety, you know it can sidetrack you at best and destroy you at its worst. I spent days on my face begging God to be bigger than the fear I faced.
I told Satan to scram and spoke audibly God’s promises. Then I felt this tug to let go of something . . . my coffee.
Now, for all of you non-coffee drinkers you’re probably rolling your eyes and yelling at me through your computer, Katy, just do it! But, let me explain.
It’s like my one thing. When the sun’s not up and neither are my kids. When it’s just me, the cat and God, I pour that warm cup of wonderful and snuggle up in my spot and, oh, it’s just so nice. So when God nudged me to put down my coffee mug I winced a little.
Eventually I caved in and obeyed. And day after day of no coffee I realized:
- I can survive without coffee.
- Coffee aids anxiety.
Huh, never thought of that until right then. The whole time I thought I was doing something for God, He was really doing something for me. I just had to trust Him and obey.
“let us strip off every weight that slows us down,” Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)
When you go through deep waters leave the extra on the banks. Because when the water is so deep your feet can’t feel the bottom. And your body is so tired, but the other side is still so far away. That one thing you don’t need – that extra weight, no matter how small it seems – could be the one thing that drags you under.
#2 Trace your way.
A few weeks into my fifth pregnancy the doctor leveled me with strict bed rest. Panic nearly choked me as I stared at four little faces looking back at me. Not to mention the fact that my attention span just about matches my two-year old’s.
I sat in the bed for 24 hours trying to figure out how I could do this for weeks – or even months – and wondering how in the world this could be God’s plan. But as I considered the current difficulty, I determined to let this be exactly what God intended. However that may be.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NLT)
I poured my heart and mind into God’s Word and books that talked about it. During those months God exposed pockets of sin in my heart and changed me. He softened my soul and broke up hardened places I never knew about before then. And He led me to this verse in Isaiah, which I’m now telling you about!
When you go through rivers of difficulty, walk up and down the river before you jump in and consider the current. Don’t let the difficulty dictate your direction.
#3 Take a step.
I grew up doing fire drills. We practiced at school and at home.
Feel the door to see if it’s hot. Set a meeting place. Crawl beneath the smoke. Stop, drop and roll.
I aced that test. But in real life, I bet it’s not so simple.
With smoke turning the room black and flames shooting to the roof, I wonder if I’d stay so calm as to run through my mental checklist of dos and don’ts. The fire has a way of demanding our attention, doesn’t it?
Instincts tell us to solve the problem. But when we send our eyes searching for a solution, the problem consumes us.
Don’t focus on the fire. Focus on the finish.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:2 (NLT)
Jesus will lead us through the fire. Not our own bright ideas. We endure the flames when we let Him engulf us.
Dear Jesus, thank you. Thank you for the smiles and laughs and songs and prayers shared in this year. And thank you for the promise of your presence as I travel through next year. Through deep waters and difficult rivers and oppressive heat, you promise You will be with me. May my actions prove your promises this year. Amen.
Copyright © 2021 by Katy McCown @https://katymccown.com/2014/12/31/3-ways-to-start-the-year-prepared/ No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org.