We are now a couple of weeks into this new year, and I have heard a handful of people rhetorically quip "I thought 2010 was supposed to get better." I have read a few different Facebook status updates that said the same thing. At first, I kind of laughed it off and appreciated everyone's humor. However, I began to take it seriously this morning when I found myself wondering: when is 2010 going to get better?
In the days leading up to the ball dropping, many people were celebrating the fact that 2009 was coming to an end and a new year was about to begin. 2009 had been a rough year and many people felt pressures they had hoped to never experience. Jobs were lost, health issues surfaced, relationships were strained and everyone was anxious to put a long, hard year behind them. 2010 would be a new year with new possibilities. It was a ray of hope on the horizon that would bring much needed change and things would get better. Well, the new year is now underway and many of us are asking when things will begin to turn around. Instead of getting noticeably better, some things seem to have gotten worse. When will it all get better?
Let me do my best to answer this question. First, in a general sense I believe things should always be getting better for the children of the Lord. The Bible tells us that we go from glory to glory and the Lord has great plans for us. I believe the Lord's plan is to always lead us from one place to a better place and He does not take us backward in our walk with Him. However, it is not always easy to see just what He is doing in our lives. Where we are now and where He is taking us are probably not side by side geographically - there is normally a little bit of a journey that we have to take to reach our destination.
Let us consider for a moment the journey the Israelites took leaving Egypt and heading to the Promised Land. In terms of the actual distance between Egypt and Canaan, it should have been about a two week hike. However, as we we all know, they wandered around for forty years! Where was this "Promised Land" the Lord had told them about? What's all this forty years business? Well, the Promised Land was within their reach just about the whole time. The Lord had designed their journey from Egypt to Canaan in a way that it would prepare them to inherit the Promised Land, but most of the people refused to respond appropriately to His dealings. This resulted in what could have been a two week journey becoming a walk through the wilderness that lasted four decades. Most of the original people died before ever seeing Canaan. How tragic! Just imagine how things could have been different had they used their wilderness journey to learn to trust the Lord. What if they had said "yes" to him rather than fight against His process. They became discourged and thought it might even be better to go back to Egypt, and many of them did. They did not go back physically, but they allowed the same bondage to grip their souls, only in a different form. They chose to trust what their natural eyes saw rather than what the Lord had promised. If they had chosen to trust Him, they could have seen the fulfillment of what they had been promised.
The same is true for us. We have the assurance from the Bible that the Lord is causing all things to work together for our good (see Romans 8:28). So, we know that it will all make sense in the end, but what about now? Many times we lose sight of the end result and begin to trust what our natural eyes tell us about our circumstances. The end result may seem to pale in comparison to the swirl that we feel growing around us. However, that end result is the Lord's primary aim. He wants to give us the Promised Land, and where we are right now is a place He has designed to prepare us for it! Let us guard against the desire to stay in the bondage of 2009 by allowing discouragement to grip our hearts about where we are now.
One of the anthem verses of the past several years for many believers has been Jeremiah 29:11, which says: "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans to proser you, not to harm you; plans to give you a future and a hope." Can it be any more encouraging than that? Well, do you realize that the Lord spoke those words to His people in the context of telling them that they were going to have to spend 70 years in exile? He told them that they would be in Babylon, but after 70 years He would lead them out because He knew the plans that He had for them and He intended to make those plans a reality.
That is a great picture of the Lord's nature. He could have said "Listen, I don't want to talk about it now. You guys have 70 years in Babylon coming up. I'll see you on the other side." Instead, He said "You have every reason to be encouraged. You are about to experience 70 years of exile, but that's only going to be a temporary season. While you're in the midst of that time, remember that I have great plans for your future! I plan to prosper you and you have so much to look forward to!" If the people had identified themselves with their exile, they would have missed the Lord's great plans. We can do the same thing. It would be easy to lose sight of His plans by the thought of what seems to be immediately before us. But the Lord has given us a glimpse of what He has in store for us to give us the encouragement to press through and make the most the present season.
Think about what He has promised you. What has He shown you about your purpose and destiny? Which of His plans for your future has He revealed to you? Keep your eyes on these and allow this present season to prepare you to inherit them!