Dealing with the Aftermath

I've always had a hard time with January. At this point in the year, Christmas is done and gone, the decorations from the festive time tucked away in their boxes and properly stored until the next year. I'm struggling to catch up with the other chores that were neglected during the Holidays. I'm paying bills too. Outside, it gets dark early. It's cold. All in all, it's a struggle to go back to normal as I deal with the aftermath of Christmas.

I've decided that life can be that way as well if we're not careful. I know at times mine has certainly felt dreary and rudderless at times. For example, when I graduated from graduate school and finally got my first job, at first I was ecstatic until I realized how my meager paycheck didn't spread as far as I thought it would. Then there was the time when I moved to Atlanta. Once the sheen of a new city had worn off, I quickly came to realize how I virtually knew no one. Or, I've now reached a certain age, and I've discovered how the dreams I had for my own life aren't quite adding up to the reality. I could call those kinds of situations the Januaries of my life where what seemed at one time perfect isn't. I've learned that I have to deal with the aftermath of expectations.

I'm not going to pretend that I have all of the answers. I don't. Not at all. Instead, I'll share things that I've learned from these experiences.

Tough times happen. They really do. And they happen to everyone. When they occur, we have a choice. We can wallow in self pity, moan that life isn't fair, and run for cover. Or, we can strive to learn through these tough times. The good news? We can grow through them and grow stronger.

We discover the real source of strength. Tough times can show us where our strength comes from. There have been times when I have both literally and figuratively run out of strength. As a follower of Christ, I've learned on who I can rely when that happens. God provides that strength when I need it, and I'm finally, after 20 years or so of following Him, coming to truly understand how I need to rely on His strength not only during the hard times but also when things are good.

Different plans are as good as my plans. One of the things I've come to understand as I hit a certain age and realize that children most likely are not an option is that God has a different plan for me. Is it better or worse than my own idealized picture of life? Neither. It's different. And that's okay. He doesn't want me looking here and there to the picture that I think my life should look like. All that would do would induce bitterness. No, He wants me to look at Him and to trust Him alone, that He will work out that plan for my life. I'm not saying it's easy dealing with the aftermath of abandoned dreams. What I'm saying is that if I remain so focused on what I perceive as broken dreams, I may miss what adventure God has in store for me.

Whatever you face in this cold January, it's my prayer that you will be encouraged to push past it. I think God gave us seasons for that very reason. After all, the winter months of January and February soon yield to the spring, a time of new life and growth. Won't you do the same? Won't you let your January aftermath yield to a time of rest and refreshment that comes with new hope? I pray that you will.

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