As I was waiting for the fireworks to light up the sky, counting down to a new year almost 365 days ago, could I have imagined all that happened this year?
I cannot say that it has been a bad year. There have been so many beautiful moments filled with laughter, and thinking of everything I experienced fills me with sincere gratitude. I cannot say that it has been an easy year, either. Looking back, some memories easily bring me to tears.
There were the everyday life challenges, when I found myself praying that God would help me face a task I dreaded, or to give me wisdom to organize my finances. There have been some sad moments, missing loved ones that are far away and learning to cope with the empty space they left behind. There were very unexpected situations I could never have imagined and did not understand. I thought I had a strong faith, but I found myself so desperate, that I wondered if God was there. Day after day, I did my best to hold on, learning to live by faith, wondering why this was happening to me.
There is a known poem about a person who started his journey with God by his side, leaving two sets of footprints in the sand behind them. But looking back in his lowest and saddest times, he saw only one set of footprints instead of two. He began to doubt that God had been with him during these times. But God answered him: “During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
This poem became a part of my experience this year.
One special day during a difficult period, life became pitch black for me. I fell asleep trying my best to choose to believe and thank God regardless. When I woke up I felt like God had given me new strength. Later, when I got together with some friends, I remembered that I had people in my life who clearly love me deeply. I experienced so much goodness that it reminded me of all that God has given me in life. How could I have forgotten! He has given me so much, and He has enabled me to give and bless the others in return, according to His will.
I learned that there is no better cure to my problems than doing good for the others, instead of being occupied with my own world. There is so much that I can do, instead of wondering why these things are happening to me. As for the things that I don’t understand, I can leave them in God’s hands, knowing that He will take care of it.
I didn’t feel I had much to give, but a smile, a good hug and some kind works, spending time with others who need a friend – that is something that can be a blessing for others. My struggles did not disappear overnight, but God’s Word is true: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35. It gave me an incredible joy and strength to endure in my trials, and a healing effect that is hard to describe. It wasn’t something that I could have understood and done on my own. Looking back, it was clear that it was God who lifted me up from my darkness, carried me through and gave me the strength to use my life for something good instead.
I realized that what gives me most joy, is not just that I can bless the others. It is the fact that I can change. When I thought that I had faith in God, God showed me how little faith I had, so that I could grow to a much stronger faith. When I thought that I had reached my limits, God showed me that He can enable me to bear more than I knew I was able to. When I asked, “What have I done to deserve this?” I learned that a servant’s mindset is to give anyway, without demands, and always remember that there is more that I can give. I became more and more free from my own limitations. There was growth and life within me in the midst of those difficult times, which gave me the kind of happiness and satisfaction that made me incredibly excited about life.
An old friend once told me how life has always been a good and festive journey for him. I looked at his relaxed and happy face, thinking of all that he has been through: financial crisis and many other difficult times, being misunderstood and treated wrongly. Now I understand what he meant: it was not that life was always “good,” but he has decided to embrace everything in life as the very best that God can give him. And by faith, he experienced God’s goodness.
Now, at the end of this year, I was again reminded of my friend’s words, filled with thankfulness. It has not been the “good” year that I expected or would have planned. It was tough at times, but it gave me much more than I could have asked for.
I wonder what next year will be like. Judging from the past years, I know it will be better than what I can expect. “Life is a festive journey,” I remember. It is going to be another happy new year.