Some years are just hard. They may start off strong, but then take an unexpected turn toward tragedy or disaster and taint the remainder of the year. Through year-long trials, it is possible to allow the Lord to hasten His wisdom in our lives, but oftentimes it hurts in the process.
Several years ago, my year was like a bad country song. My husband lost his job on our anniversary, and a few weeks after I gave birth to our fourth child, our house burned down.
Losing all our earthly belongings threw my family into an ocean of difficulty and loss. We thrashed around, mingling our tears with deep waters while clinging to faith with a fierce grip. Everything was strenuous, and we fought hard to keep our heads above water and not be pulled down by depression, emotional exhaustion and fear.
“We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance” (Psalm 66:12 NIV).
That year was terrible, and I never want to go through it again, but God restored what was lost.
Then a few years later, an even bigger storm hit; my dear friend had an affair with a mutual friend, my best friend moved 2,000 miles away, my sister moved 5,000 miles away, my husband lost his business and the dog died. I had no friends and no money. My confession that kept me spiritually alive that year was, “God is my provider, and Jesus is my friend.”
Even though losing our house was a really big deal, going through friendship trauma was much harder. It was messy. It was like an entanglement of thousands of intricate electrical cords that were severed in an unforeseen moment. I was left with fragments and broken pieces, while wondering how I got involved in all of the problems that threatened to steal my joy.
I didn’t want to kiss that year goodbye. I wanted to drop-kick it and never see it again.
I was so battle-weary from the drama that when entering the new year, I was afraid that I would carry the dust of the previous year with me. I felt like it was going to hover over me like Pig Pen in the Peanuts cartoon: a swirl of grime always around me, reminding me of the loss and drama.
And that’s when the Lord spoke to my heart about shaking off the dust.
He spoke to me about calling out the loss, identifying it for what it was, not allowing myself to sugar-coat anything, but to cry out to Him with my pain. As if in the spiritual realm, I collected all the dirt and filth that traumatized my year and envisioned it collected on my sandals. In my imagination, I prophetically smacked the sandals together and shook off the dust that cluttered my heart and mind and declared that they would not follow me anymore.
They would no longer clutter my mind with regret.
They would no longer claim precious real estate in the walls of my soul.
I declared the new year would be full of His promises and I would walk with full assurance that He had my best interest at heart.
Sometimes as believers, we find that trials come in seasons. For me, each season was incredibly painful — like being pruned to the nub — but the Lord brought me through it. When I was in the thick of each trial, I imagined myself clinging to God like I was holding on to a flagpole in the eye of a tornado, all the while confessing Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” My flesh would pull me toward fear and anxiety, but my spirit stayed firm on His word. His promises held me and comforted me in the darkest places.
When all the dust was shaken off and the drama died down, my relationship with Him was much deeper and sweeter than before. He is faithful to walk beside us, not before or behind, but near to those whose hearts are sore and wounded.
“He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3 NIV).