When you look back over the year, what do you see? What thoughts are running through your mind? Emotions coursing through your heart?
What is your attitude about saying goodbye to 2018?
I think I fall into the second category with a toe in the third.
2018 was not the year I was expecting it to be in January.
I had lofty ambitions and huge projects to do. I had everything laid out, prayed over, and broken down. I even felt God’s blessing on my goals and was ready to get after it!
But like the Israelites fresh out of Egypt, God immediately took me on a detour through the wilderness rather than taking me straight to the “Promised Land.” And like those Israelites, I was confused. Uncertain. Angry. And more than a little resentful. I started to question my calling. My abilities. My purpose. My sanity. Everything.
I tasted the bitter waters of Marah, and I protested. I grumbled. I complained. I questioned. I’d barely started the year! How did I get here? Why and I here? Wasn’t I supposed to be going that way?
Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea [imagine the spiritual high they were on], and they moved out into the desert of Shur [hot, dry, no water except for what they were carrying with them]. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water [the dangers of extreme dehydration were real, death was lurking]. When they came to the oasis of Marah [At last!! we are saved!!], the water was too bitter to drink [the toxic salts and minerals would magnify their state of dehydration]. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”). Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. Exodus 15:22-24, comments mine.
For those of you who’ve followed my journey, you know the detour wasn’t an easy one. You know how I’ve wrestled. And to be honest, I’m convinced I’m still on this detour, at the foot of Sinai, learning to fully TRUST God in every little part of my life. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it goes against my “well-laid-out plans.” Even when it seems like I’m going backward instead of making strides toward the finish line. Even when…
Looking back at 2018, TRUST Me, has characterized my year. I didn’t ask for a WORD at the beginning of the year, but I believe this one was handed to me. Interestingly, the more I chose to TRUST God, the more I would see Him move, teach, and lead me. And more often than not, I would see Him provide in ways I could never have dreamed or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).
As I review 2018—every challenge, disappointment, angst, and worry—I see His fingerprints all over the place. I see where He refined my faith. Helped me grow. Revealed more of Himself to me. I see how He closed some doors and blew others off their hinges. I see.even now, Him holding doors open, but not allowing me to walk through quite yet—there’s still more work to be done.
As you look back at 2018, where do you see God’s fingerprints? Where do you see Him leading you, changing you, and growing you? If you are having a hard time seeing it, ask Him to open your eyes and your heart to see. You might be surprised. You may see potential disasters avoided, temptations thwarted, blessings you didn’t even realize were blessings. Then give Him thanks for ALL He has done for you. As we take our first steps into 2019, ask God to help you see these things in real time this year.
And when you come to an oasis like Marah. Instead of wearing the Israelite’s sandals, kneel alongside Moses:
So Moses cried out to the Lord for help… (vs 25a)
Allow God to show you what to do—even if it doesn’t make sense!
and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water (25b)
A piece of wood?? What good is that going to do…
and this made the water good to drink. (25c)
…and then you realize it was a piece of wood our Savior was nailed to. As the rough surface made sure His flayed back would remain open, raw, and bleeding, Jesus was taking our sins on Himself. As each splinter drove into his lacerations, He was allowing Himself to become so hideous, so vile His own Father turned His back on Him—so we would never have to experience that. As His blood ran down the jagged edges, He was washing away our sin and making us righteous. As he suffered, bled and died He was paving the way for us to have access to the Father and a restored relationship with Him. As that piece of wood was stained with His blood, He was offering forgiveness. Salvation. As He gave up His life, He was giving us new life. He was taking our bitter, depraved, sin-filled life and making it sweet. All while hanging on a piece of wood.
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” (25d-26)
The wood Moses threw into the water had no power to change the water. But God did and still does. He chose to use that innocuous piece of wood to save the Israelites from physical death and to teach them about the importance of their faithfulness to Him. The cross didn’t have special power either. But Jesus does. He chose to be nailed to that unforgiving piece of wood so we could be forgiven and saved from eternal spiritual death. All He requires is our TRUST in Him and His leading.
See, believing and acknowledging God exists is step one in faith in Jesus. But it’s not enough. Why? Because according to James, that belief puts only us on equal footing with Satan and the demons (2:19). We have to take the next step, to TRUST Him. To rely on Him, to follow Him, to surrender every single detail of our life into His capable hands. Yes, that includes our goals, dreams, desires, and His calling on our lives.
This is what God had to teach me in 2018. And I thought I did trust Him. But I learned I was holding back in some areas of my life, and He wanted those areas too. He wanted all of it and all of me.
From January to now, in my writing career, my personal life, my family, and my marriage God was testing me and teaching me to stop grumbling and to kneel. When I would come to a Marah, when life didn’t go as I expect…God was teaching me to cry out to Him. To submit. To TRUST.
After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water. (vs 27)
It took me a while to learn this lesson. (Irish-stubbornness) But I’m thankful I did. I’m thankful for His grace and patience. Because now I can embrace 2019 and the new layer He’s added to TRUST Me—DILIGENT/DILIGENCE. But more on that next time.
Cheyenneolson.com (Vibrant Relevance) turned 1 in September! I can hardly believe it. This sweet little toddler is still learning to walk. Trying new things, but getting traction.
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Thank you all for making 2018 a GREAT year! I love and appreciate your likes, comments, and support more than you know. Thank you for helping me grow, being patient when I make mistakes, and encouraging me each step of the way. Thank you for your prayers as well. Those are more precious to me than anything.
Alright, shoulders back. Chest out. Chin up. Eyes forward. Say a little prayer. Ready?
Let’s step boldly into 2019 together.
Much love to you!