NEW, BY CHOICE?
Many people like to celebrate the arrival of New Year’s Day with resolutions for the coming year, seeing the holiday as a time for a fresh start, a second chance, or simply a motivator to start something new. That can be a great thing, or it can be setting oneself up for another year of frustration at unfulfilled hopes and plans. Either way, the idea of looking forward to possibilities and move ahead to something fresh with optimism is a positive asset to have. But those are changes that we choose.
What about the changes we do NOT choose, but are thrust upon us?
People going through divorce find themselves in this situation, certainly. Even if they are the ones who filed for divorce, that was not what their preference would have been when they stood before an altar making vows “till death do us part,” but instead found that life had gone in a different direction, and they now find themselves making a choice they wished they never had to make. Other people in divorce find that they face a new year all alone, having been abandoned or rejected by the person they had expected to be with them for the rest of their lives. In either case, this new year will be a significant change in their lives.
Others approach a new year with other kinds of change brought upon them by life. Some may have lost their jobs, and face a search for something different, or may have had to adjust their lifestyle due to having accepted a lower paying position. Some will start this new year in a different community, as their job, natural disaster or family situation forced a move. Some will face a new year of unfamiliar and scary medical procedures, having recently discovered a condition that requires treatment. Some may find themselves faced with the need to care for aging parents who need their help, and so their time and plans have to be adjusted accordingly. Some will experience difficulties with their children that create awkward situations, such as a child who has gotten entangled with drugs and the law, or a child whose financial irresponsibility requires ongoing bailouts or perhaps even a move back home.
Many of these things can come about through choices we select, but many come because of the choices of others, the economic climate, or simply one of the many of the realities of life. It is fun to face the new year with plans and dreams that we have created. It is another thing when we are forced into places we did not wish to go. Or is it?
To cope on a daily basis, we maintain a sense of control about our lives that is, in many ways, an illusion. For example, I have known many people who are “health conscious” in their diets and workouts, who still end up facing unexpected illness. I have known others who worked hard in life and were frugal in planning for their future, only to have it taken away when their pension disappeared due to the actions of others, or who lost their homes when the market went crazy into a downturn and their mortgage became unaffordable. Even the fact that we have clean water or electricity in our homes is, apart from paying the bills, beyond our control.
We get excited about choices and plans when WE make them…imagining the possibilities and placing our hope in a better day. But we generally don’t feel the same when the choices are forced upon us. And yet, WHY NOT? Just because the changes aren’t ones that we create ourselves, does that mean the change doesn’t bring with it the possibility of something fresh, something good? While the change may not be everything we hoped for, are any of us really so omniscient that we actually know what is best in every situation, or what all the possibilities are in any given scenario? What if, instead of only being optimistic about changes WE choose, we instead make the choice to be optimistic no matter why changes come into our lives? Sort of like the old silly adage of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Maybe the adage isn’t so silly after all.
As you face the coming year, with hopes and plans you have created, as well as some that you would never have expected or chosen, I invite you to face them all with optimism and hope. There is always something to learn, always opportunity for something meaningful in even the hardest of circumstances. That was proven by people like Victor Fankl and Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who found meaning and power even in the hell of German concentration camps.
We can’t always choose the things that come into our life. But we can always choose our attitude as we face them. And for those of us who know Christ, we can face those changes unwanted by us with the knowledge that God is working a plan, even if it isn’t the one we expected, and God’s promise is that his plans are always for our ultimate good.
Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution might be to live each day reminding yourself of that beloved verse Romans 8:28---
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)
Choose to have a Happy New Year, knowing that God is in charge, and he DOES know what he is doing, even when we don’t!.