Alex and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year


We asked our bloggers to share where they’ve seen God at work in 2016. Here is what they shared.

I’m so done with 2016.

Normally, I’m writing last year’s date at least until February. This year, I started accidentally writing “2017” on things in November.

It would be pointless for me to list out all the things that went wrong this year, but they ran the gamut from getting a ticket for not registering my car to the death of my wife’s mother. Maybe you had a great year this year; plenty of people did. I’m glad that you did – but there are a lot of us who are more than ready for this year to be over.

I know it’s a little juvenile to hope that that 2017 will be different from 2016 (at least, different in a way that’s better). And it’s practically superstitious to assume that anything will change on January 1st just because I put up a new calendar on my wall. The sun has made another revolution around the earth. What could that possibly change?

It’s probably less accurate to gauge our circumstances and attitudes on calendar time, and more accurate to gauge them on God’s time. You might hear pastors and long-time Christians talk about “seasons” as a way to describe time periods for circumstances and attitudes. There are seasons of decision-making, seasons of grief, seasons of growth, seasons of joy and so on. They don’t correspond to summer and winter; they correspond to human hearts and souls. Change in these seasons doesn’t come from the earth’s relative angle to the sun; it comes from a change in our relationship with God.

For me, that relationship has been changing as I’ve turned from a path of self-reliance to a path of trust in God and in the people around me. I’m still taking my first steps on that journey, but I’m now beginning to see how I’ve been trying to control the world around me and ignoring the ways God shows up in my life. I can’t take responsibility for everything that goes wrong in the world – and I also can’t take responsibility for everything that goes right. I played my role this year, but God was in control.

In 2017, the earth will continue to revolve around the sun (and not around me). People will die, and people will be born. People will lose their fortunes, and people will win the lottery. People will stub their toes, and people will find $20 bills in their coat pockets. I don’t know if I’ll be any more fortunate this next year than last year, but I hope that I will have a better relationship with God.

I hope I’ll be able to see how God is working through the people around me (and even through me!) whether the world is being built up or destroyed, whether people are being “plucked up” or being “planted.” And when I can’t see God in the bad times, I hope I’ll remember that God sees me. God is present everywhere and in every circumstance. Frederick Buechner reminds me of this in the entry on “Hell” in his theological ABC, “Wishful Thinking:”

He descended into Hell,” the Creed says, and “If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there,” the Psalmist (139:8). It seems there is no depth to which [God] will not sink. Maybe not even Old Scratch [Satan] will be able to hold out against [God] forever.

For this new year, I pray that we find ourselves unable to hold out against God forever. I pray that God would sink precisely to the depth we find ourselves at. I pray that our seasons of darkness would end. I pray that a new season would now begin.

ALEX BECKER serves as the pastor of Langcliffe Presbyterian Church just outside of Scranton in the wonderful town of Avoca, Pennsylvania, where you might catch him out for a run, or more likely a walk.