Happy new year and congratulations, caregiving friends! You made it through another year! What you do to serve your family, honors God. He needs you to do some heavy lifting. But it has not gone unnoticed by Him.
The truth that God sees each one of us individually and uniquely brings such encouragement. This message threads all through the Bible but Jeremiah’s experience had personal meaning for me this year:
Then the Lord said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?” And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.” And the Lord said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.”
A picture of almond branches in my office is daily reminder God is watching me and will carry out His perfect and valuable plans with me.
It takes hefty doses of hearing God’s voice (through scripture most of all) to keep me encouraged, focused, and generally strong.
Of all the year-end traditions I enjoy, one that I need and savor most is an annual reflection on which scriptures defined, repositioned or grew my faith and relationships most in that year.
I use two guiding questions:
What scriptures were pivotal in your faith history for 2022?
What are some intimately memorable ways, themes, or messages God impressed upon you this past year?
How much richer is our personal history when we discover it within the text of specific scriptures! I love seeing dates and simple notes in the margins of my Bible. They remind me where Jesus and I have been together.
God will never stop speaking to us through His Word — as long as we expose ourselves to it.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
I want to invite you into this kind of reflection. The time of year you do this doesn’t matter as much as just doing it. Consider it a tool for good faith maintenance. It makes a great year end practice but also something you could do around the time of your birthday. My birthday happens to be in January, so it all just fits nicely for me into a time of year when I am naturally reflective.
This has been a year when caregiving was extremely demanding, consuming, and confounding at our house. I confess, I also struggled mightily in some relationships this year. There have been significant victories and joy. And there have been times of bitter sorrow. Sin is a nasty pest. Oh, how I thank God we are not without hope!
Larry and I have often prayed from 2 Chronicles 20:12, “Lord, we don’t know what to do. But our eyes are on You!” In 2022, this was not just a prayer of declaration or aspiration. It was a prayer of desperation. The year began with significant reductions in caregiver support, and strain quickly escalated with her medical issues and extreme anxiety and sleep problems. We realized, yet again, how completely and utterly reliant we are on the Lord.
The Apostle Paul’s experience moves me:
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.
As we are taken to the end of ourselves, we find more of Jesus. And prayers from our community is the best help.
These are a couple more verses that paint an historical picture in this season of my faith story. All those I’ve shared in this post reflect cherished messages God repeatedly poured into me during 2022.
Psalm 30 (the whole Psalm really, but especially verse 5)
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
2 Corinthians 6:4-10
In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
I am desperate for and grateful to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that is deeply personal and intimate, comforting, and strengthening to me. I pray it glorifies Him most of all.
Will you take a moment today to remember one or two verses that stand out in your mind from this season of your life? You might skim through a journal, sermon notes, or your Bible to discover them. Often, when we allow intentional space, the Holy Spirit simply brings things like this to our minds.
Remembering God’s faithfulness spurs us on. When our gratitude grows, our joy grows. And our joy in the Lord is our strength.
I would love to hear what verses and themes tell the story of your faith history this year! Please write me in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver advocate and author of popular books and Bible studies includingFinding Glory in the Thorns andJesus, Let’s Talk. Along with her husband Larry, Lisa co-founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit interdenominational organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa serves caregiving families as an ordained pastoral counselor and certified Christian temperament therapist with memberships in the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling and International Ministerial Fellowship. Lisa and Larry have three grown daughters. Their youngest, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome, lives at home with them in Minnesota.