Still, I know this is going to be one of those years that I look back on with so much amazement, and probably even a little bit of wishing for certain aspects of it to come back. Sometimes, the most beautiful things can only be found in the most painful times. I've experienced so much growth this year, so much change that needed to happen--big time. I love the times when I'm constantly learning, when things are constantly clicking in my head, and I finally get it. And boy, did I learn a lot. (That being said, I am still so glad this year is over! I will never pray for anything close to that ever again. God can teach me on His own time. LESSON LEARNED.)
I've kept up with blogging about a lot of the lessons I've learned this year as they were happening, so I won't go into crazy detail here, but I did feel the need to be really cliche and make a retrospective year-in-review (or lessons-in-review, as it may be) kind of post. :) It's more for myself than for anyone, but I figured I'd share anyway. Also, since there have been so many different lessons, I'll post it in parts. Part one today, the rest to come soon!
Highlights (in no particular order):**
Life is not predictable. Things are not going to go the way I expect them to, and God is not going to work the way I think He should. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10:
"Be still and know that I am God."Apparently, an alternate translation of "be still" is "let go"--
"Let go and know that I am God."Stop freaking out. Stop worrying. Stop trying to control everything. Just be still, let it go, and recognize that He is God and I am not. He's got it under control, so I need to let Him be in control.
Gratitude: it's something you hear a lot about, but generally don't make a conscious effort to include it in your daily life. At least, that's how it's been for me. This is a huge thing that God has been teaching me over the past several months. Thankfulness is not just a nice suggestion; it's vital to joy and contentment and keeping God first (which, consequently, are all tied very closely together!). Even when everything is going wrong, there is always something to be thankful for, even if you have to get down to the tiniest things. Sometimes, it's the little things that matter most.***
"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well."God absolutely has to be first in my thoughts, in my heart, in my life. My whole life needs to be centered around Him. When it all comes down to it, He really is the only thing that matters. A relationship, a career, a life goal, whatever--if anything else is getting most of my attention and is what I'm striving for most, then something is wrong. He is the "prize," if you will. Nothing else.
- Matthew 6:33
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."I've always kind of understood that in my head, but this is the first time it's really clicked, and the first time that I've made a conscious effort to make it my way of life.**** Because it does require effort, constant effort, which brings me to my next point...
- Philippians 3:7-8
4. Perseverance: Keep pushing.
Everything is a process. Keeping the main goal in sight is absolutely crucial, because otherwise, you will never make it anywhere. The rest of life is way too distracting, and when things get painful and doubt starts creeping in, perspective is nearly impossible to maintain. The only way I've been able to keep going is because I've been doing my best to keep Lesson #3 in the front of my mind as much as I possibly can. My mindset: Push through the pain now, because it's the only way through. It will hurt, but the end will be worth it. And then (like now), once the pain is past, the goal still has to be in sight because at that point, it's the only motivation you have. There are no breaks here; it's a daily choice to make for the rest of your life.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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."5. Blessings in disguise.
- Philippians 3:12-14
Sometimes, God's best does not come in the form we expect. Sometimes, His blessings come to us in really heartbreaking ways. Sometimes, pain is proof that God loves us.
God knows what's best for us. The thing is, it usually takes a good deal of pain to actually get there. Rarely can we get to where He wants us to be without giving up certain things we have now. Gaining His best often requires a lot of loss on our part. That isn't to say that we don't gain so much more--we do--but loss is always painful. And sometimes, there are things in our hearts that have to be removed, and a lot of times, it requires a great deal of pain to bring it to the surface. In the end, if we handle it correctly, pain will always bring us closer to God. Isn't that in itself worth it?
"You said, 'I know that this will hurt6. Dig deep: Finding purpose in the pain.
But if I don't break your heart, then things will just get worse
If the burden seems too much to bear,
Remember, the end will justify the pain it took to get us there.'"
- "Let It All Out" by Relient K
When it comes to dealing with pain, we have two options: Face it head on or bury it with distractions. Option one actually gets us somewhere, while option two is only going to make things hurt even more in the end.
Finding purpose in the hardest times requires us to do some serious soul-searching. It means digging deep and making some changes that we may not have even realized we needed. I'm not saying that every painful situation is a result of something we've done wrong, because that's definitely not the case. Still, every painful situation can be used to grow, and growth almost always requires change. Hard? Very. Worth it? Most definitely.
(Click here for part 2!)
*I do have to say, though--it's had its fair share of similarities to 2009! Kind of scary in some ways. Both were definitely big years for learning and growing and maturing in major ways. Just different ones.
**It was kind of hard for me to divide these up into a nice little list because all of these lessons are so related and intertwined and often inseparable. But…I did my best.
***Keeping a list of "the little things" I'm thankful for has become one of my favorite things. It's amazing how much you miss when you aren't looking! God really is so good.
****This is such a basic concept, I know, and it's one I've heard all my life, but the meaning of it didn't click until this year. Maybe I'm a little slow, but the basic, foundational stuff has been big for me lately. It's like I'm finally getting it, not just in my mind, but in my heart, because I'm actually experiencing it and having to make the conscious decision to include it in my life.