The Humungous Hill
Remember & Rejoice
“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year for you.” Exodus 12:2
This past year raced by like the Kentucky Derby–too fast to capture more than a blur. So how do we harness 2023? By remembering and rejoicing as we go. Only then can I appreciate and experience God in the moment, like the jockey on the horse instead of a bystander. “Thank You, Lord,” I might whisper as I watch the pink sky awaken with the sun, even when it’s ten degrees. Or, I can celebrate the wool socks on my feet when filling my gas tank, even though the native Mainer next to me is in a tee-shirt! Another way to remember and rejoice is to lay out your calendar and plan to meet that special friend, take that trip or serve in that same special way. Of course, man makes his plans but God directs his steps so be flexible and remember, always remember, what God has already done.
Fortunately, January is also full of novelties. In New England we wear our new boots and sweaters, light our new candles, and open our new calendars. As I write, a new blanket of snow is covering the dirt and flocking the trees, making everything winter fresh. Similarly, January marks a new year and covers our past with a clean slate of white calendar boxes waiting to be filled.
As you might guess, January is a time of contemplation and hope for me too. When I look back, I remember the joy I felt last winter as I watched the snow fall, made snowmen, and flew down a humungous hill on a plastic sled with friends and family. This January I look forward to doing it all again, only with more leisure.
Still, for ancient Jews, whose new year and Passover celebration took place in the spring, the focus wasn’t new snow, it was new life. They remembered how God spared them from plagues and rescued them from their suffering. They also celebrated God’s goodness, provision, and their deliverance from death.
Nevertheless, we can remember and celebrate redemption, new life and suffering in January. Wait! This is the New Year! Why am I talking about suffering when it’s supposed to be about fresh starts? Because the Bible says there is a season for everything. There is an ebb and flow as powerful and necessary as the ocean tide. Suffering smooths the sharp edges of my rocky heart while seasons of rest warm it so I can comfort others. Both are gifts from God and that’s why we remember and we rejoice even in our sufferings. The Bible says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV).
Regrettably, in the same way I forgo my coat as winter rolls into spring, when I no longer “have to” put on the armor of God to get through the day, I sometimes forget to put it on at all. This can lead to despair and hopelessness because my heart gets cold. Instead of remembering and celebrating I become sullen and bitter. For example, after the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt God led them into the desert full of bounty and walking in freedom. However, when they met with uncertainty–blocked by the sea, the threat of starvation or the lack of water–they turned quickly to unbelief and mis-remembered the “good old days” in Egypt. Ha! Of course, I can relate!
Fortunately, God has given us His Word and the ability to communicate in writing. (Journaling is amazing for our faith walk because the words written in the past reflect our heart condition at the time.) Romans says, “and we celebrate in hope of the glory of God.And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:2b-5 NASB).
Therefore, as the pleasure of summer is magnified only by suffering through a hard winter, remembering and rejoicing magnifies our joy. Isn’t it true, in the winter our warm houses, socks and blankets are precious to us? Then why is it we don’t appreciate them in the summer? Because we don’t purpose to remember what God provided when we needed them!
Regrettably, the same is true for our spiritual seasons. Sometimes, when I feel like it, I cling to God like a down coat on a blustery day. I allow Him to hold me tight and snuggle into His warmth like a child sitting in her father’s lap. But suffering thrusts me into His loving arms no matter the season of my heart, causing me to reset my soul and mind. Then, whether it is sin that causes the suffering or a trial like illness or loss, the winter fresh moments of remembrance and rejoicing are even more precious because they usher us into the reality of God’s love.
“’Come now, and let us debate your case,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They shall become as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB).