The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.”Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)
AT YEARS END
In less than 2 days, a new year will be ushered in, Lord willing. It is the time now where we look back and then look forward. We look back to see how the past year has treated us, well, how the Lord treated us is the correct thing say. We look back at the many blessings and losses. This past year has been hard, not only upon me, but many. This past year my father and my younger brother passed away due to complications with COVID unexpectedly. It was not only me, but many more who lost their loved ones to this heinous virus and other illnesses. It will be a new year without those we love. We will move on without them, yet we will still feel their absence from our lives. We will still at times have moments of sorrow, nights of tears that will shed from our swollen eyes. We will dig deep into our memories of our loved ones and look at photos that will help us not forget their smiles and the laughter they filled our lives with.
Yet, as it was unexpected to us, it was not unexpected of the Lord God. It was His plan. Why? For I can not answer that and yet I ask at times, why, why Lord? We do so because we are fallen creatures, frail, and can not comprehend His will, His intentions, or why He does things the way He does. Yet, through these terrible and afflicting trials, he commands us to trust Him. Yes, it is quite hard to do so. After all, we are a people that are demanding to know things and why things happen. I think of Job, sitting there in sackcloth and ashes, covered in boils, lamenting the loss of his family. Yet, even though the darkest moments of his life and loss, Job says, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
Again in Job 1:21, Job says, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD”. Amidst such devastating loss, Job praises the Lord. We can certainly learn from Job in this matter. I will admit it is hard, but unlike the world and its utter hopelessness, God is steadfast in His love and promises. The theme of Lamentations is not one loss, but one of hope. Great is His Faithfulness, even in a hopeless and sorrow filled situation. He is faithful and merciful.
After looking back at this year, I can see where and how the Lord used the loss of my father and brother. I must confess that I was living and looking down at the world and not at the Lord Himself. I was self centered, materialistic, and selfish. The death of my father and brother caused me to pause and wake up from the slumber that I was in. Was I saved? Was I truly saved? Oh, the nights of panic attacks, anxiety attacks and many trips to the Hospital I was in deep and dark pit for months. It was in those months that the Lord got my attention and caused me to stop everything in my life and look to Him. I was not living truly for Him. I was legalistic and looking at myself and not at the Cross, not at Christ and His accomplished work.
He woke me up from the sleep that I was in and even now, the Lord has placed a new trial before me. By His providence, it was made alert to me that a 1 CM mass was found on my left kidney. By His grace, the doctors caught it early. I may lose half my kidney, I do not know at this time as I await an MRI to diagnosis to define it what it is. I must admit the Lord has been teaching me to trust Him. I am like the father who yelled out, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Through all the hospital visits, looking back, the Lord showed me that I was okay physically. After 11 visits to the ER room and a stay at the VA Mental Clinic, the Lord was gracious and kept showing me, “Stephen, believe me”. A friend told me that the Lord was placing me through the refining fires and my late Pastor, Doug Heck told me when he learned that my dad and brother died, “Man, the Lord has something special planned for you”.
It has certainly been a hard year filled with sorrow, grief, and loss. Through it all though, the Lord has been faithful and truly I can say, “Great is thy Faithfulness”. Great is Thy Faithfulness that He would forgive me of my sin and iniquity that I have committed against Him. Great is The Faithfulness that He would show me such patience and love. Great is steadfast love toward me a sinner who deserves His full blown judgment and wrath. Yet, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ bent down and touched me, the leper.
I do not know what the new year will bring. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but one thing that I have learned is that whatever trial, affliction, and sorrow that comes my way, my eye sight is to be fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His Righteousness, because that is all I and you have. It is the life and accomplished work of the Lord Jesus Christ that saves us, not our works. Thanks be to God for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I like to take this time to thank Mike Abendroth, my Pastor, Dominic Aquila, my elders, and you my friends for all of your prayers and continued prayers.
NEW YEARS RESOLUTION.
I only have one and that I would keep my eyes on Christ and Christ alone and not on myself. To give myself to Him fully and serve Him with what years left He has granted unto me.
I pray that you all have a Happy New Year and may God bless you and your families.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Stephen J. M.