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How was your year?

When I ask the question, “How was your year?” I understand that there will be many and varied answers.

To a business owner, a ledger of gains and losses might be the central theme.

To a farmer, the answer may involve the uncontrollable quirks of the year’s weather.

A person who has spent many sleepless nights dealing with serious health issues of a personal nature might simply view the year as one of survival.

To a junior in high school whose family moved because of a job transfer, the year could have been a great challenge.

If someone had asked Chicago attorney, Horatio Spafford, how 1871 was, he would have said, “Terrible.” In that year, Spafford, who was heavily invested in real estate, lost a fortune as Chicago burned. He also lost a son to scarlet fever that year.

But 1871 was a picnic compared to what Horatio Spafford would be called upon to endure two years later. In November of 1873, he decided to take his family, a wife and four children, to Europe. A business matter caused him to send them on ahead. He would join them in a short time.

You probably have heard this true story before, but the ship upon which his family sailed, the Ville du Havre, in the fall 1873, collided with another ship in the early morning hours of Nov. 22. The only surviving member of his family was his wife and she cabled him from Wales “Saved Alone.”

Spafford immediately booked passage to go to her. As he sailed across the Atlantic, on a cold December night, the captain called him aside and spoke, “I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville du Havre carrying your family went down.”

He went to his cabin, but was unable to sleep. Awake and, in great faith, he penned these words, “It is well; the will of God be done.” Those words became the foundation for one of our most popular hymns of all time, “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Can you imagine what Horatio Spafford would have thought if someone had asked him, about this time 1873, “How was your year?”

Yet, something on the inside of him enabled him to endure all that had happened to him and his family. What resiliency. What faith!

Now, “How was your year?”

The Bible says in James, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (1:2) I have used that verse before as I have written in this space. It takes great faith to absorb those words. Obviously, God doesn’t expect us to laugh at the troubles we experience. The kind of joy spoken of in this verse is not an external laugh, yet it is a very positive and uplifting feeling.

This has been a tough year for many. Financial gains have been few and far between. Jobs are hard to come by, particularly if you don’t have one. The bills that come in good times don’t just stop when the times get hard. In fact, it seems that they double up! Think you finally see a little light at the end of the tunnel? Think again.

Facing up to a distinctly difficult year will make you humble. I would think that these last two years have brought many people down a notch or two. But, the tough years don’t have to defeat us. Here are some of the truths that help me get through the tough times.

Primarily, there is the infinite nature of God. God is simply bigger than anything I will encounter. He knows all things, He sees all things, and He can do all things. In addition to that omniscience and omnipotence, there is the loving fact that God put all of that aside so that He could experience life on earth as I do. I’m not saying that while God was on earth as baby and man, he acted as I do.

Far from it, he was perfect, but He did “take up our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Matthew 8:17). In that way, God knows what it is like to be us and can relate to us in a human way. That doesn’t make the hard times go away, but it helps me to get through them just thinking that I am not alone.

Another attribute of God’s that helps me weather the storms is His permanence. Good and bad comes and goes. Situations, no matter how intense and painful, are temporary. I’m thinking of that old saying that is not in the Bible, “This too shall pass.” God, however, is always God.

The Bible does say that He changeth not. To me that means that God can be counted on for His never ending love and faithfulness. I can always count on God’s working for what is best for me. I may not know what to do in any situation, but God does and He is doing it!

Years, like 2009, pass. For some it was a good one. For others, it was not so good. But whether it was a good one or not, God was there to see us through, just like He was for Horatio Spafford way back in 1873. God has been through every year and for every one. We might not realize it or give Him credit for his steadfastness, but that’s our weakness, not His.

As one year goes and another comes, I am hoping that the new one will be all that you want it to be.