We’re here again-on the verge of another new year. The typical greeting (or is it a wish?) we give each other is “happy new year.” Is that what we all really want? To be happy, according to the Apple Dictionary is to be “cheery, merry, joyful, jovial, jolly, jocular, gleeful, carefree.” Could anyone go through an entire year this way?
I suspect what we are really saying in the exchange is we hope the other will have a year free of trouble and difficulties. This is certainly desirable, but is it the best way to go through a year?
Let’s say a person goes through an entire year without one single trial or difficulty. What would that person have learned? Trials and difficulties are problems which give us a chance to grow mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
When I was on a temporary ministry assignment in Seattle, Washington, I contracted Hepatitis A (a virus spread by contaminated food) which meant I had to stop working. Before I knew what I had, I spent three days in a motel room alone, feverish and nauseous. I did not have health insurance, so I needed to keep expenses down. I visited a health clinic where I was told what I had and that I needed to be in isolation for about a month. I flew back to Michigan and stayed alone in my mother’s apartment while she was down in Florida.
When I got back to Michigan, I questioned why this had happened to me. I thought as long as I was doing what God wanted, I would have a life free of troubles and difficulties. Little did I know or realize that this experience, languishing on a bed in a motel for three days, would help me understand what it feels like to spend hour after hour on a sick bed. The memory of that experience reminded me, through all my years in ministry of the importance of visiting church members who were hospitalized. That knowledge never would have come to me any other way.
As uncomfortable as trials and challenges can seem, they actually are opportunities to develop as a person and to learn more about ourselves, our world.
I don’t expect the whole country is going to change their New Year’s Greeting because of this blog. But if the blog helps change some people’s thinking about challenges and tribulations, it will have served its purpose. Seeing difficulties as opportunities for real and permanent growth, would give us all better perspective on the trials 2017 has in store for us. Maybe a better greeting is “a challenging new year.”