As January quickly flies by, the buzz of the holidays has worn down and we all slowly return to our normal lives. We go back to work and school. Our usual habits return, despite those New Year Resolutions that we were so determined to keep. The new year always brings with it a promise; a promise of renewal. A fresh start, much like the fresh start that God gives us when we put our faith in His promises.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s often difficult to be single during the holidays, among other times of the year. It’s hard to believe that anything could actually or will actually change from the way things have always been. I’ve been single for nearly 35 years and I often find myself dwelling on the fact that the best predictor of the future is typically to look at the past. I mean, if it rained yesterday and the clouds remain today, it’s a good idea to grab an umbrella on the way out the door. If I was single last year, then the odds are pretty good that I’ll be single this year as well. Not that I’m complaining, I’m perfectly happy with my singleness and the freedom that it affords me, but sometimes I wonder if being in a couple could be just as good and enjoyable. I’ve noticed that the hope of ever finding someone dwindles with each passing year. The loss of hope is disheartening, but when you make a conscious decision to put your faith in Jesus and the delivery of God’s provision, hope can be restored.
Last weekend I went camping with my small group friends. It was cold, I was tired, but it was a blast. Living in Southern California, we were lucky to not have a super snowy campsite, but we went for a hike along a trail that had patches of ice and snow where the sun doesn’t shine regularly. I pulled a muscle trying to keep my balance over the icy patches and almost fell numerous times. The fear of falling almost kept me from continuing on the trail, but one of my friends waited patiently for me to make it to the end of the ice patch, offering encouragement as I needed it. I’m so glad that I continued because what I saw on the trail, because God truly spoke to me through the beauty of His creation.
The area we hiked through had been significantly burned several years ago in a wildfire. One of my friends estimated that it was about 17 years ago, but you could still see the scorched black remnants of tree trunks that stood along the trail. The thing is, despite the devastation that had once torched the landscape, there were green grasses, bushes, and plants that had grown all around the blackened wooden skeletons. There were birds and other small animals hiding in the bushes. There was life returning from the ashes of the landscape.
This made me realize just how wonderful God is. Not only does He restore the land after fires and trials of this world decimate what once was there, He also restores the blackened and burned inner workings of us!
When we allow God into our lives and we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God takes what once was torn up, beaten, bruised, burned and He makes it new, just like with the land after a wildfire. Not only that, but He designed many species of trees and plants to need the fires in order for their underground seeds to germinate and grow properly. The world may throw burning flames at us from time to time, but God is greater than that. He alone can help to restore the broken pieces to something better than the original. As we learn from nature, this process does not happen overnight. The blackened tree trunks were still very evident on that trail, even 17 years later. The beauty and awe lies in the fact that the ground level plants were not just growing back, but thriving. There is definite hope that the landscape will make a full recovery in the future and in God’s time.
If I were to look at this same situation with my previous analogy I’d say: yesterday there was a fire that burned everything, so tomorrow everything will remain burned. But this would be incorrect.
Yes, everything will remain burned on the outside, but that’s because God is working on the inside, deep in the soil to start the process of regrowth. It’s not the same as it was yesterday and neither am I. Each day a little growth continues, even when we cannot yet see the sprouts of the renewed plants push through the soil yet. Each day, I grow and change based on the situations that I encounter. Each day you change, too. That’s why it’s so important to allow God to mold us and make us His. Allow Him to change us for His good. Even when things seem like they will always remain the same, if we allow God to work in us, we will eventually see the sprouts of growth that He so lovingly nurtures each day.
As you start the year, I pray that God will do some great work in you. I pray He will nurture those seedlings that you have deep down inside. And I pray that by this time next year you will see some of the sprouts of His hope and light beginning to show in whatever area of life you’re struggling with today.