“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

The previous posts don’t really show it, but 2019 has been a rough year.  I’m reminded of the phrase, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.”  And it’s true, I don’t.  Internally, this little old heart gained some new scars big and small, a few real fresh and still hurting.  Some friendships ran their course, family relationships imploded, job turnovers kept me in constant search-mode, new friendships faced spiritual challenges, infernal plumbing and A/C issues flared up at the worst times – geez, it looks like I must have done something wrong to have caught all this drama, huh?

But not so: this year hasn’t been about punishment and consequences.  I am convinced that 2019 was the culmination of the last 3 years and the lesson/character trait that the Lord wanted me to get: endurance.  It’s an easier thing to say than to develop, yet it is required of me as a child of God.  Why required?  Because endurance is the fruit of hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3).  And if there’s one thing believers must have with faith and love, it is hope.  It is a faith-building block for sure, but Lord have mercy!  The process to get it is a challenge.  And when we add our human condition to it – the struggle to forgive and forget, the temptation to hold on to the pain, the habit of feeling sorry for ourselves—y’all, this endurance business can be too much.

Yet, I’m still here.  Heart scarred, spirit bruised, mind weary, I…no, we are still here.  Not because we’re too stubborn to throw in the towel, though that may be true, but because of the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside.  When things went south, He was always there to keep us from falling.  The enemy threw his best every time, an uppercut here and a right hook there, and the Spirit of God pushed us back up.  When we were clinging on to the ropes, He was coaching us from the corner to get out of there and keep going.  Imagine if you will that old school clown toy with the heavy bottom.  Every time we hit it, the toy would lean backwards without hitting the ground.  No matter how hard the blow, the toy would never fall flat and stay down.  It kept bouncing back.

Bozo Bop Bag

That something on the inside, its base of sand, enabled the toy to endure our wild child punches.  Occasionally, it would land a blow of its own, right in the face.  Likewise, the Holy Spirit is at the core of who we are, holding us up when the enemy and life try desperately to knock us down.  When we want to quit, the Lord won’t let us.  He will not let you, me, or any of His children fall.  He is our guardian who will not sleep (Psalm 121:3-4).

We lift our heads and cry out for relief, and He delivers through His word: “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  We lean heavily on Him to weep, and He answers with “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).  We close our weary eyes and listen for Him to say he “…will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).  Believe me when I say:

We are not crushed.

We are not abandoned.

We are not destroyed.

We endure.

Our faith and relationship with God are not in vain, and never will be.  He gifted us with the “bounce back”, His Holy Spirit, to go into this new year with hope that our latter days will be better than our former days.  He promised us this, and if there’s one thing I know and you should, too, is that God always keeps His promises.

Prayer: Lord, 2019 did a number on Your children.  We are still trying to make sense of it, honestly.  But for every sad and dark moment, You gave us light and love in unexpected ways.  You gave us energy to persevere, to endure.  Surely, we don’t look like what we’ve been through, and it’s all because of Your grace, power, and might.  I pray, Father, that in 2020 we receive “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).

We are ready.