I hadn’t intended to write anything over the Christmas period. However my family (including nephew and niece) are currently out visiting fish (pet ones apparently rather than things you eat) so I thought I would jot down a brief thought.
Each year at Woody Road we have a testimony evening on the final Sunday evening of December. It is an opportunity for different people to give thanks for the ways in which the Lord has helped them and answered prayer over the past twelve months. It tends to be encouraging and last night was no exception- it was good to hear stories of the Lord providing for people in different work situations, drawing a couple of people to Himself and of His faithfulness in the process of translating the Scriptures amongst three different people groups. In addition, it was lovely to hear of the way in which He had used people in the church to be an encouragement to others.
However, I am always aware of a tension on those evenings- and was conscious of it again last night. I could look round the room and also perceive the unanswered prayers. It’s not that anybody said anything but I know people’s situations well enough to know that in the past year prayers for the conversion of family members, for change in deeply painful circumstances and so on don’t appear to have been answered. It always feels like the uncomfortable “elephant in the room” on testimony evenings. How do you handle it?
It seems to me that we need to rediscover the importance of perseverance. “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance…,” says the apostle James (Jas 5:11). There was lots for which to be really thankful last night (and this post isn’t intended to undermine anything that was said). But I came away most thankful of all for those who had been through a really tough year, had not seen any relief in their circumstances and yet still came last night on an evening when we were giving thanks to God for His goodness.
I always find Psalm 73 helpful. Circumstantially things don’t look good for the godly. And yet, after a period of doubt and questioning, here is the conclusion:
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
As I come to the end of the year I am most glad that I am still a Christian. Knowing the waywardness of my heart and how difficult circumstances can create doubt, I am glad that I still want to live for the Lord. And I know why that’s the case- not because of the strength of my will but because the Lord holds me by my right hand and will not let me go. Whatever the past year has held for you, that can be a real cause for thanksgiving.