Today is my husband's birthday. He's a year older than this time last year. (Strange that!) Yet it seems like only a few months since his last birthday. What happened to 2013?
Can you believe we are at the beginning of another year? It doesn't seem possible. I feel a bit like this little guy in the yellow shirt. Trying to keep up. How about you?
When I was undergoing aggressive cancer treatment, there were times when I longed for a tangible awareness of God. Oh there were many occasions when I did feel God's presence, but other times? It felt as if I had lost touch with Him, and I seemed to struggle through on my own. One day I was reading my Bible and I came to that well-known passage in Psalm 23.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalms 23:1-6 NIV)
"He makes me lie down. He leads me. He restores me. He guides me. Clearly the Lord was in charge. Just as well. I shuddered at the mess a sheep would make of things.
"When I reached verse 4, I paused. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . I identified with that picture too. I often felt as if I was in the shadow of death. I read on. Goodness and love will follow me . . . (v. 6). Suddenly the words will follow seemed to stand out from the page." *
When I go for a walk with my dog, often she trots ahead, and that's fine. But when she lags behind, determined to sniff at every little bush, I don't see her. I have to stop and look back to see what she's up to. Look at the picture. That shepherd doesn't see the sheep unless he stops to look back.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I thought back to some of the difficult times of the past months, the times when I hadn't been aware of God's presence. His goodness and His love had followed me. God was there all the time, even when I hadn't noticed Him.
I'm sure we've all seen situations like the one pictured above. The little chap in the blue shirt is striding out with confidence. He cannot see his little brother struggling to keep up. The only way he will see his follower is if he stops and looks around.
Every year end, my husband and I have a tradition. Near to midnight, we stop and look back. What has the previous year brought us? We think of the good times, and we think of the not-so-good times. We look for evidence of God's intervention in some of the situations. We marvel at the times when He brought us through, sometimes with us resisting all the way. We praise Him that even when we didn't see Him, He was always there. His goodness and love followed us all the way through the year.
Perhaps for you, 2013 has not been an easy year. Maybe there were times when you felt alone. Now's the time to stop where you are, and look back. Search for signs of God's love and guidance, perhaps His protection and mercy. He was there all the time.
Now move into 2014 with your head held high. No matter what lies ahead, God will be with you. We only need to follow. And have a happy and blessed New Year!
SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her sojourn in the cancer valley.
Please visit Shirley through ShirleyCorder.com, where she encourages writers, or at RiseAndSoar.com, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook.