While a new year offers us a fresh start, it can also bring anxiety. Questions crowd into our minds. Will my job become redundant? Is God going to keep me single for another whole year? Where is that mate He’s supposed to be bringing me? Where will the money come from for college, rent, clothes, food? Must I continue to suffer this person, this church, this handicap, this pain, this loneliness? We have a calming word in Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.” That word stands. He will fulfill. His love endures. He will not abandon.
We are meddling with God’s business when we let all manner of imaginings loose, predicting disaster, contemplating possibilities instead of following, one day at a time, God’s plain and simple pathway. When we try to meet difficulties prematurely we have neither the light nor the strength for them yet. “As thy days so shall thy strength be” was Moses’ blessing for Asher—in other words, your strength will equal your days. God knows how to apportion each one’s strength according to that day’s need, however great or small. The psalmist understood this when he wrote, “Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure” (16:5).
What may be tomorrow’s cross I never seek to find.
My Father says, ‘Leave that to Me, and keep a quiet mind.
To lug into this new year all the baggage of last year would greatly impair our ability to concentrate on what our heavenly Father wants us to do. If there is someone we should forgive and learn to love, if there are debts which we have not paid, dishonesty we need to confess, an apology we must not postpone—or even a garage or closet that needs to be ransacked!—let us do what we ought to do now. Then we can say with Paul, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). The Lord says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
Oswald Chambers wrote,
Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him
My Utmost for His Highest, Dec. 31
Students often ask me how to find out what God’s will is. I tell them that the will of God for them today is to study! That’s not what they want to hear, but that is surely an important part of God’s will for students. They must not cut classes, plagiarize on their papers, cheat on exams, treat the professor disrespectfully, or shirk their duty to their roommate. Faithfulness today is the best preparation for the demands of tomorrow. If my job is to wash the car or fire an employee (I’m thankful I’ve never had to do that!) or fish for lobsters today, the faithful performance of that humble task will enable me to accept tomorrow’s assignment. When the young virgin Mary received an unexpected visitor she was greatly troubled and wondered what his greeting meant. The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary,” and gave her the staggering piece of news that she was to give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High, whose kingdom would never end. What thoughts must have flashed through her mind as to the future—how to explain this, for example, to her fiancé Joseph? She did not give way to that fear. She said “Behold”—a word that means look upon, regard, consider—“the handmaid of the Lord,” putting herself instantly at His disposal, an act of unreserved self-donation and perfect surrender. She was attentive, willing, ready to receive the Lord’s word.
When Mary’s story is told in Latin the word is Fiat, a loaded word meaning “So be it,” “Let it happen as You wish,” or “May it be to me as You have said.” And what of us? Will we welcome the new year, assured that we are safe in the hands that hold the stars? Can we wholeheartedly surrender to God, leaving quietly with Him all the “what if’s” and “but what about’s”? Will we truthfully say to Him, “Anything You choose for me, Lord—to have, to be, to do, or to suffer. I am at Your orders. I have no agenda of my own”? It comes down to Trust and Obey, “for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus,” as the old gospel song goes. Our future my look fearfully intimidating, yet we can look up to the Engineer of the Universe, confident that nothing escapes His attention or slips out of the control of those strong hands. Remember the assurance of St. Julian of Norwich: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
In the story of my growing up, The Shaping of a Christian Family, I have told of our ritual of hymn singing every morning after breakfast. Usually we went straight through a hymn book, one hymn per day, no stanzas omitted. But on April 5, 1952, I was to sail from New York to Ecuador, where I hoped to be a missionary. My father made an exception on that early morning and allowed me to choose the hymn we would sing. This it the one I chose, little imagining how powerfully and literally it would describe the following years:
I Take Thy Promise Lord
I take Thy promise, Lord, in all its length,
And breadth and fulness, as my daily strength;
Into life’s future fearless I may gaze,
For, Savior, Thou art with me all the days.
Days may be coming fraught with loss and change,
New scenes surround my life and fancies strange;
I thank Thee that no day can ever break,
Savior, when Thou wilt leave me or forsake.
There may be days of darkness and distress,
When sin has power to tempt, and care to press,
Yet in the darkest day I will not fear,
For, ’mid the shadows, Thou wilt still be near.
Days there may be of joy and deep delight,
When earth seems fairest, and her skies most bright,
Then draw me closer to Thee, lest I rest
Elsewhere, my Savior, than upon Thy breast.
And all the other days that make my life,
Marked by no special joy or grief or strife,
Days filled with quiet duties, trivial care,
Burdens too small for other hearts to share;
Spend Thou these days with me, all shall be Thine,
So shall the darkest hour with glory shine.
Then when these earthly years have passed away,
Let me be with Thee in the perfect day.
This excerpt was originally published in the January/February 1998 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.