IMG_6226Matt and I were chatting last night, reflecting on the past year.  In doing so, we both acknowledged that, in many ways, 2015 didn’t exactly play out as we had anticipated.

I had waltzed right into 2015, armed with my plans and my intentions and my dreams, and I waited for God to do His thing, work His magic, and make all of my wildest dreams come true.

(Again, I say: bless my heart.)

You see, sometimes we come to God with our plans and wait for him to offer up his holy stamp of approval.  As if the great I AM exists as our personal genie in a bottle.  Oh, how many times I approached God with my conditions.  My “if… then” statements.  And with confident “I’ll never”s and “I won’t”s.  How brazen and arrogant of me.

This year, when my white-knuckled grasp of control started loosening ever so slightly and my “I’ll never”s became a wary “okay, if you say so,” I was reminded anew that this God can be trusted with my palms up in surrender.

Yes, He can be trusted.  And His plans, they are always good.  His aim is always His glory.  And He deserves it.  All of the glory.  For all of our days.

This year has been a good one for us.  One full of change and some really hard moments, yes.  But one also full of growth.  Community.  Root-planting.  New ministries.  Bright, fun-filled, ordinary days that, in retrospect, seem anything-but-ordinary after all.  It’s all grace.

The thing is, we weren’t promised a great year.  Surrender doesn’t always yield the results we want.  I know far too many people who faithfully follow Jesus… who “put their yes on the table”… who have kept their palms open while mine were clenched closed… and who are, right this minute, living the nightmares of chemo and betrayal and addiction and poverty and death.

We are acutely aware- perhaps now more than ever- that God sometimes chooses to use pain and sadness and really hard times to lift eyes and hearts to Him.  To see souls repent and lives surrendered.

Jesus doesn’t promise us life, love, and happiness as a reward for following Him.  Nor fat bank accounts.  Obedient kids.  Smooth sailing.  Or any other thing this world seems to value.  What He offers to us is His very self.  HE is our reward.  HE is our greatest prize.

We have the hope and promise of Emmanuel.  God with us.  God for us.  And that, my friends, is a pretty sweet promise indeed.