When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow comes to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken, no, I won’t be shaken
“Stand in Your Love” by Josh Baldwin
I sang along to the worship song, not mindlessly but not completely focused either. Suddenly, tears began running down my face, and my brain registered the words my heart was already wrestling. Watching the first online church service of the year, I remembered something that hadn’t made my best-of list for the previous year, my Christmas letter, or my annual photobook for the grandparents.
Like everyone, I’d spent the past few weeks reflecting on one of the most difficult years, searching for any highlights and favorites, blessings and gratitude. Never one to pretend that life is perfect, I’m usually quick to acknowledge the struggles I’m facing. (Like the year that my daughter broke her leg and spent nearly ten months in some form of a cast? Incredibly difficult, which I told every single person who asked and many who didn’t.) But who wants to hear about the year that my faith was, in fact, deeply shaken?
You can search every shelf, but you won’t find a card that shouts, “Joy to the Lord! This year I doubted God!”
The truth of 2020 for me was that for one of the first times in my life, I questioned God’s goodness. I questioned His sovereignty. I questioned my own adherence to beliefs that weren’t doing a thing in the face of a particular grief.
I also published two books! Took a spontaneous road trip with my husband and kids! Survived working at home while also helping my kids do school at home!
How could all of that be true at the same time? In the same year? How could a big, wonderful, beautiful year also contain some serious anguish and doubt that shook me to my core? How could one small season hold the weight of enormous blessings and crushing burdens?
I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I know it’s true. Last year was ugly and beautiful, disappointing and delightful, and surprising in the best and worst ways. All of the amazing things that happened aren’t less true or less valuable because of my struggle. And the fact that I wrestled with my faith in a new and painful way wasn’t reduced by the fact that I experienced a lot of joy. Our lives are full of both joy and pain — often at the very same time. And that’s okay. We can acknowledge both. We can hold both.
And we can worship God through both.
I’m thankful that song reminded me of the hard parts of last year, because in my efforts to choose joy and focus on the positive through the holidays and my year-end reflections, I’d left out half the story. The good parts of the year are actually richer because of the thread of pain and doubt and struggle that winds through the weeks and months. Only by seeing the good and the hard intertwined and overlapping do I see how faithful God has been to me.
He’s not just here when I’m happy. He’s not just here when I’m grateful. He’s not just here when I’m rock solid, believing with all my heart. He’s here, always, no matter what. He’s here no matter how much my circumstances, my life, my heart change. He’s here, and He never changes.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (CSB)
Last year was a lot, and the Lord was there for every good, bad, and in-between bit of it. And I won’t forget it.
How was God faithful to you last year?
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