As I reflected on those events two obvious realities were apparent. These realities are things we all know, but easily lose sight of. The first is that the unexpected will happen. Life is constantly changing and because of this it will deliver surprise packages on a fairly regular basis. We cannot see the future, so we simply do not know what is going to happen. James 4:14 says, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” All too true. Not only do I not know what will happen tomorrow, I don’t even know what will happen today.
So the upshot of my reflection is to be reminded once again that since so much of life is out of my control that necessarily means there will be surprises. It means that my ability to be at peace and be joyful will be dependent not on my ability to control life so I get what I think I want, but on how I respond to the inevitable surprises that come my way. I can either try to impose my will on the world around me and control everything and everyone, an effort doomed to fail and certain to create enormous stress, conflict and disappointment, or I can learn how to be at peace with whatever comes my way and to respond with grace. In other words, the real key in this world is having the inner strength and peace to handle whatever happens, because tumultuous things will inevitably happen.
It seems to me that strength requires first that we understand that it is how we respond to things that is most important. Then it requires that we know that while I am not in control, God is. I can be at peace with all that happens because I know that God is not surprised. Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Not only does God know all about it, he is good and is working for my good. Two familiar verses remind us of this. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
One other factor helps me to respond in peace, and that is that the Spirit of God in me will give me the strength to handle what comes as I look to him for help. In Ephesians 3:16 Paul prayed that God, “may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Since God has all the power necessary to deal with any situation, and his Spirit is in me, that power is available to me too.
I have no idea what is going to happen in 2014. There are some things I hope will happen and some that I anticipate will happen. But what I know for certain is that there will be some events in my life that will be difficult, that I wish would not happen. There will be some disappointment. There will be some triumphs and joys as well as defeats and losses, but on this day I don’t know what they will be. What I do know is that what is most important is what is inside me and how I respond to whatever may come. Knowing that God is at work and that he is able to give me strength is the key to handling it. Counting on his goodness and his strength enables me to look forward to another surprising year with anticipation and joy.