We are four days into the new year and I want to wish you a wonderful 2014!
We have all begun to fill out our new calendars and see how the year is shaping up. We add celebrations, appointments and meetings. We make note of projects, endeavors and ideas that we want to implement or at least consider.
Many of us also resolve to eat more healthily, exercise more regularly, be more patient, forgive more easily, stress less, pray more, watch less TV and read more books, be more helpful, spend less time on the Internet and more time with friends and family, and/or stop procrastinating. We make these kinds of resolutions and it is seldom long before some are abandoned.
We already have discovered that 2014 is not going to be a perfect year - or by some miracle of the "new calendar genie" we have not suddenly become perfect, either. However, neither should stop any of us from having a wonderful year.
In the midst of the mess that often characterizes our lives, people of faith need to be exactly that ... faithful. Praising God and recounting the gracious deeds of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done according to God's mercy and abundance of steadfast love. - Isaiah 63:7
When our hearts are filled with praise, trusting in God's abiding presence, a light shines in the darkness. It is like, as they say, seeing a light at the end of the tunnel ... and it isn't an oncoming train.
This faith, or trust in God, does not keep the messiness of life away. People of faith always have faced illness, grief, anger, depression, oppression and every difficulty you can name. Faith is not a shield, but it helps us get through the difficult days and reminds us that we won't be in a dilemma every day.
When I was in college two of the popular books were Erma Bombeck's "If Life Is A Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in The Pits" and Harold Kushner's "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." They were best sellers because we all understand life isn't easy, and all too often it is downright horrible. There are dilemmas that challenge us to give up our best intentions, and catastrophes and tragedies for which we find no answers and bring us to the limit of our capacity to endure.
Thanks be to God we are not alone. First, we are people of faith, not one person of faith alone in the wilderness. Second, the prophet reminds us in Isaiah 63, that even though God often is frustrated by our unfaithfulness, God always is faithful. Third, God is the God of our present, past and future. Our present predicament, whatever it may be, will not always be there. As much as we struggle against it even when we want it and need it, change will happen. For better or worse, things will not always be as they are today.
So on this fourth day of 2014, know that all is not lost, and all is not won. Each day will bring both rewards and challenges, and God will bless the living of each day. So have faith, even if you think it is only the size of a mustard seed, God can work with it. Don't give up. Keep the faith and do your best. God is with you. You'll be surprised as you count your blessings throughout 2014.
- Bernstine is the executive director of the United Churches of Lycoming County.