Suspended. As one year draws to a close and another is upon us, we seem suspended between the two realities.
If Christmas is joyful and all seems calm and bright, I always thought it was followed a week later by an ominous question mark. This year even seemed more ominous because we have closed out a decade.
For myself, I know this has been the most life-changing decade in my life. I have been privileged to live in parts of five decades so far, and this has been a very pivotal decade for me and will always remain so.
It started with a spouse abandoning me and the loss of my ministry, going through three or four temporary factory jobs in the space of three years, struggling to reconcile that broken marriage but to no avail, a bitter divorce — but aren’t they all — finding a wonderful church family again, losing my mother to complications from emphysema and COPD, finding the woman God had chosen for me and three beautiful children to boot, the restoration of a ministry, and the discovery that both my dad and mother-in-law each had cancer, as well as finding a new stepmom.
That’s why I say no decade has been so altering or life changing.
But then we do have three daughters of marrying age, so who knows what the next 10 years will bring about ?
It is, as usual, the story of life. Mine, though complicated and winding, isn’t a path of life that is abnormal or unusual. All of us find ourselves at events that are the height of joy, and then we experience the depths of despair.
Yet, though it all, one thing never changes, and that is the presence of an ever-faithful friend. I can assure you, at times during those tumultuous 10 years I learned how to talk with God in deeper ways than I had ever had before.
Jesus goes with us through all the good, bad and in between, and if we turn to him, he leads us to those places that will restore, rebuild and renew us to greater works of service for him as only he can do.
When I was serving a church in Delaware, a fellow minster shared with me a Bible verse as I left from there and came to Virginia. Although it wasn’t fulfilled in the first church I led in Virginia , it was fulfilled nearly 10 years later when I had gone through that roughest decade.
The verse was Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For 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.’”
The fact that that “bright hope and future” came after many years of pain shows us that God can take what the “locusts” have eaten and turn it into something very good. He is the only one who can take all our questions about the future and all our tomorrows and make something wonderful out of them.
May that knowledge help us face a New Year and a new decade with fewer question marks and more confidence.
James Pence is minister of Pleasant Grove Christian Church of Martinsville.