As the New Year Begins - Thank You and Yes
Dag Hammaarskjold’s, “For all that has been Thank You. For all that is to come, Yes” beautifully captures our thoughts and feelings as the clock winds down to 2018 and ushers in 2019. As we look back, there are many things that we have to be grateful to God for: faith, family, health, food on the table, roof above our head, job security, celebrations, laughter, good times… Yes, we are indeed grateful to God for all the things that have gone well in our life. Can the same sentiment of gratitude be expressed to God even when things and events have not played out according to our plans and expectations? Isn’t this precisely what Hammaarskjold’s quote implies: for all that has been, thank you?
Looking back, I am sure, for most of us 2018 would not have been just days of Easter but of Good Fridays too. I trust 2018 came with its share of wounds, pain, sorrow and suffering, insecurities, fall from grace, sin, shame, anguish and anxieties, stress, tensions, loneliness and dark nights, crosses, hurts, rejections, betrayals, fears, jealousies, addictions, sadness, despair, depression, plans going haywire, financial loss, loss of job, broken relationships, death of a loved one... When we are exposed to pain, sorrow, and heartbreaking experiences, our immediate reaction is, “Why me? What wrong did I do?” Or we play the ‘pity me the poor victim.’
I personally find it difficult to accept that God would directly cause pain and suffering in the life of an individual/family/group to instill in them a religious/moral lesson, to draw them back to their forgotten faith. Isn’t this what Jesus rejects when he was asked whether the blind man’s condition was the result of his sin or that of the parents (Jn 9)? Pain, sorrow, suffering, misfortune, and adversaries can happen to anyone and at any time, but the question is, once pain, sorrow, and suffering strike us how do we respond to it? God centered approach calls us to surrender one’s pain, sorrow, and suffering to God and to trust that God will bring good out of it. Didn’t God use the evil of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery to bring about the good of saving the people of Israel? St. Paul sees his time in the prison as an opportunity to proclaim Jesus (Philippians 1:13).
It is a call to let God act through our misfortunes. Isn’t this the common experience of a vast majority of believers that once they surrender to God, God will bring some good out of it? At the actual time of experiencing adversaries we may not understand why such a thing is happening in our life but once surrendered in total trust and faith to God, the believer begins to see the good in that very misfortune itself. Thus, a believer is not only grateful to God for the blessings but equally for the losses, tragedies, failures… Isn’t this the meaning of “Give God thanks and praise in all situations of life?”
No one wants to be exposed to sad events and tragedies in life, and when they do occur we feel miserable, and it is normal to feel so. But later when we revisit a misfortune, a loss, a tragedy, a broken relationship, a heart wrenching event, a plan that did not go our way, still out of trust and surrender, we can say, “Thank you God.” Then we will also realize that because of pain and sorrow we have learned something precious in our life because we have become spiritually ‘richer.’ “...we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us. (Rom 5:1). And isn’t our life fuller now? Are we not better persons today? Have we not learned valuable and precious lessons that life teaches us? If surrender is our attitude, then we must equally be grateful to God even when things do not go our way. Suffering and sorrow contain within it more life and religious lessons than what we have learned from all the years of learning about life. To acknowledge the presence of God even on the cross is real spirituality. Grace is in the very wounds we run away from. Being wounded and broken on the cross becomes the channel by which Christ redeemed us. There is no Easter without a Good Friday, no Resurrection without a Crucifixion. Let us be grateful for everything that happened in 2018 and let us welcome and embrace 2019 with the attitude of absolute trust and surrender in and to God. Let us hold onto the words of Julian of Norwich as the mantra for 2019: “… all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'
Have a Mission and a Vision Statement for 2019
Most Corporates and Institutions have a Mission and a Vision Statement. The Mission Statement states the nature of the company’s current work and the Vision Statement gives the direction the Company wants to move in the future. As we begin 2019, it would be of immense help to have a personal Mission and a Vision Statement to guide us in our spiritual life.
This could be done at different levels:
To have it at the personal level (for the individual).
As a family to have a Mission and a Vision for 2019. How would you describe your family to be? In what direction do you want your family to be moving? What are the basic values that will materialize your vision?
Sit with your children and assist them to prepare their own vision and mission statements for 2019.
If I belong to a group what would be the Mission and the Vision for 2019?
A Personal Example
At my place, on one of the side tables, there is a small wooden Christmas frame on which the word JOY is carved. And there is a very small crib in the letter ‘O.’ The frame caught my attention as I was thinking of my Mission and Vision for 2019. Growing up I have been told that JOY is an acronym for Jesus, Others, and You. My Mission and Vision for 2019 is inspired by JOY.
Jesus: I want God to be the priority in my life, the center of my life and everything else in my life to flow from this center. I want this burning desire, thirst for God day in and day out.
Others: I want to serve rather than be served. To always place the interests of others before mine. To shift the focus from what I can get from others to what I can give others. To remember that the needs of others always take precedence over mine.
You: I want to die to the self. The biggest obstacle in letting God to be my priority, my center is ‘ego.’ To consistently walk on a spiritual path that will enable me to destroy all that will ‘Edge God Out.’
With such a Mission and Vision I can now think of concrete resolutions to be what I want to be: JOY.
My friend, what is your Mission and Vision for 2019? Nothing is impossible with God’s grace.
Have a Blessed New Year !