This time of year is full of new beginnings for many of us...new Bible studies, new courses, new projects of all sorts. God created the seasons to give us variety in life, and each new season comes with new expectations and delights. Often, however, a few weeks into the new what- ever, we find ourselves struggling with the same issues, hang ups, and hindrances as before. Why do we respond the same way and expect a different outcome? Every new season is a new opportunity to get it right.
That woman in your small group who irritates you. Before responding the way you used to, why not consider how to love her despite how you initially feel towards her? Try praying for her instead of judging her, murmuring about her, or gossiping. It's amazing how God changes our hearts toward those we pray for. I find that often the people who irritate me the most remind me of the things I don't like about myself. How sweet when we learn to love those we used to snub.
That exciting new hyped thing that turns out to be a lot of work, some of it even tedious. When the new wears off, we are left with the reality that most worthwhile things require hard work, perseverance, and overcoming the parts we dislike. I love to tackle a new project, begin a new Bible study, or connect with new students in a new course I'm teaching. But a few weeks into it, challenges always arise. Why did I think this season would be different? Portions of the Bible that seem difficult to decipher, harsh, or impractical today can make studying the Bible a chore. That new project that I was so eager to tackle contains some challenges, and those wonderful new students...well, they are wonderful, except that one who sits in the back playing solitaire on his computer, requiring an appointment with the professor, ugh.
Years ago, I read a story by Edith Schaeffer that taught me a valuable lesson that has made a huge difference in my life: If you expect perfection or nothing, you get nothing. As I think about this new year with its new opportunities and challenges, I remind myself, and you, of the truth of that statement. We live in a fallen world. Ants at the picnic could spoil the fun, if we let it. Women in the group could spoil precious friendships, if we let them. Disinterested students could spoil the adventure of learning together, if we let them. Don't let them. Expect ants, and irritating and disinterested people, and relish the experience anyway. Stick in there, dear friends. Wring out what God wants to teach you. Where you go in life is determined by what you do today with the hindrances designed by one who hates you, wants to sidetrack you, and steal your joy. So tackle the new year with excitement and a realistic perspective, and watch God fill this year with abundance and growth.