As you read this article we are only a few weeks into the new year of 2014 and your battle with self-discipline may have already slipped regarding the resolutions you made to be and do better this year.
As Americans we have developed an expectation that every year must be better than the previous year. People are striving for more personal wealth, power and influence each year. People develop personal goals that ensure personal progress professionally, intellectually, financially, etc. While this is an admirable quality of the human spirit striving for high ideals, it may not be very realistic for everyone.
Not to cast a pall on positivity and striving in hope, but would the year be a total failure if you simply remained the same professionally or financially and didn’t lose ground? How does one deal with setbacks and challenges constructively if we are so superficial about the realities of life?
Please don’t misunderstand me, I believe striving is a talent and a good quality. I also set written, periodic, personal goals, but I have also experienced challenges that adjusted my timeline for completion of those goals. As you contemplate the new year and where you are currently, versus where you want to be, let me direct you to an ancient story that may add some perspective to your plans for this year.
The last 14 chapters of Genesis (37-50) are solely devoted to the story of a young dreamer named Joseph. Please take the time to read these chapters for yourself because they promise to enrich your life and your experience if you allow them to permeate your thoughts. This young man was first among his brothers and his brothers hated him for it. Their hatred led them to fake his death and sell him into slavery. As if it were not enough to be sold by your own brothers into slavery, as a slave Joseph was falsely accused of making sexual advances toward his master’s wife. Joseph was subsequently imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
Many people would ask where God was at times like these but evidently Joseph did not ask such questions. In both situations Joseph was first among slaves and first among prisoners because of his intrepid faithfulness and diligence.
One thing that really stands out about this story is the fact that Joseph never sought to escape his terrible circumstances. He didn’t try to escape his brothers, his Arab captors, his Egyptian master or his Egyptian prison cell. Joseph accepted his circumstances and went about every day being faithful and diligent. Every time Joseph had a setback he always rose above his circumstances.
Here is also something to think about that isn’t explicitly stated in the text. Joseph was robbed of his youth, his innocence and a family, so there had to be an indescribable ache in his soul. Yet, God was enough to fill that void in Joseph’s life. No matter the slip of your will, no matter the size of the void in your life, no matter the level of pain you suffer, God is enough for you and he has said so in his word (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
My prayer for you is that you have a happy and abundant new year. I hope that you will continue to strive for excellence, but accept where you are today and the circumstances that you are experiencing as training for the next phase of life. Better yet, understand your challenges as God’s way of sculpting you into the person he wants you to become.
Bryan Collins is minister of Central Church of Christ of Dalton. His column runs the second Saturday of the month.