Gosh, it just seems like the past year has been filled with struggle. And I don’t like it. But come to think of it, prior years were filled with struggle, too. It was different struggle than this year, but it was struggle nonetheless. This is the season when we reflect back on the year and look forward to the next. If you’re like us, there were plenty of really amazing moments (some of which we mistook as just being ordinary) and some serious moments of struggle. As I look forward to the coming year, I’ve found myself hoping for more amazing and less struggle. A lot less. This year we fought an extraordinarily tough battle to secure a future filled with hope and opportunity for our three youngest sons. It’s been brutal. This year surely hasn’t been the financial windfall that we were hoping for, either. In fact, we’ve experienced the grace of God through the kindness of friends and strangers who have helped us pay our attorney and brought our tired hearts dinner on plenty of occasions. This year I saw a massive, six month long flare-up of my previously well-managed back disease. This year we bid farewell to important friends who were called to minister in another state. We’ve grieved our own losses and wept in tandem with dear friends as they grieved losses of their own. Yes, this year has seen its share of struggle. Everything within me hopes for less struggle next year. Maybe even some smooth sailing. But I think that’s what I’ve hoped for at this point every other year, too. Maybe I’m hoping for the wrong thing. Here’s what I’ve come to realize: I have been conditioned to despise struggle. In fact, I tend to equate struggle with a lack of peace. I spend an uncomfortable amount of time wishing for a reprieve from struggle. Praying. Hoping. In Isaiah, the prophet said that the Christ would be called the Prince of Peace. Imagining that scene at a manger so long ago, Peace certainly didn’t mean an end to the struggle of Joseph and Mary. If anything, the baby’s arrival only magnified the struggle of an unmarried gal and her fiancé. They still hadn’t had a proper wedding. They were still in a land that wasn’t home to them. They were still surrounded by the filth of a barn. Struggle followed them through the years, too, as a narcissistic king Herod ordered that Peace be exterminated. Struggle followed as they left town and realized they forgot their son, who was teaching in the temple. In fact, struggle followed them all the way to the cross, where Joseph and Mary felt their parental hearts shatter as an angry mob overwhelmingly insisted that their child be crucified. Struggle was just part of their story; it’s part of our story, too.
I’ve been seeing this all wrong. Peace isn’t the absence of struggle. In fact, it is in the midst of our greatest struggles that we often experience our deepest peace. In struggle, Peace meets us. It is through struggle that we grow, that we build the strength and skill to navigate the challenges that lie ahead; to face a new year of struggles head-on. Struggle allows me to see the power, love, and sufficiency of God. So as I look forward to the new year, I won’t hope for fewer struggles. I don’t even wish for the struggles to be less-trying. I only want to find peace in the midst of the inevitable struggles. I want to know, truly know, Peace. John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”