“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion – do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers…. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers.. don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?….
Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
(Matt 6.26-34, the Message translation)
And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today – at the latest, tomorrow – we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”
(Jas 4.13-15, the Message translation)
How convenient it is to just forget that we have nothing guaranteed to us in life. As we look ahead to the days of 2023, we may see plans for holidays, weddings and graduations, for new homes and special activities for which bookings are already made. Or we may be making plans to pursue new interests, change our exercise habits, get involved with new intitiatives in our church and community. All this is perfectly natural, and in one sense quite wise – as creatures, we thrive on anticipation, looking ahead, making and fulfilling plans. In another sense however, it is rather delusional, since we cannot know from day-to-day just what will happen to us. Our lives can change in an instant – accidents, redundancies, bereavements, fractured relationships are all things which we cannot always see coming and prepare for, and the statistics assure us that we are just as likely as anyone else to suffer from all of them. As believers, we are not somehow immune to the weaknesses of our bodies, and the impact of other people’s choices on our lives.
Let me therefore look out to the new year with wisdom, by all means with plans but also with a very profound sense of my own frailty, and ignorance. My courage must rest not in my organisational skills, physical or mental strength, financial resources or even my family, but solely in the God in whom I trust. I cannot know what he may permit in my life in the days to come, but I can choose to turn towards him every day and pray to be joyful in the present, in the day that is given, in the opportunity to serve which is within my reach at this moment.
It is not right that I should live in fear of loss, regretting in advance those things which may not be mine for all my days – how foolish is such an attitude?! Rather, I pray God will give me wisdom to dive into deep gratitude for their continued presence in my life for as long as they are there. I pray to be fully present in the days he gives, not curled up behind closed curtains, mourning in advance because I will not always have them. I pray to rightly thank the giver of all good gifts by appreciating each one to the hilt, and living where he has placed me with all my strength.
Merciful Father, who knows my frame and frailty and has compassion on my weakness, I pray for strength to honour you with today. I pray that I might not squander it in selfishness, but spend it with you in gladness. Light up my thoughts by your love, let me notice every good gift you will prepare for me today, so that in worship and thankfulness if in nothing else, I might spend the day well.
Let not the possibility of change and loss pollute the joy of today, but rather as I thank you, my good Father for all your gifts, let my trust in you grow. So may I can face change with steadfast heart, knowing you have different, and still good things, to give me in new ways and different places. For your glory, and my blessing, Amen.