A new year filled with the unknown stretches out in front of us.
I must admit, as I think about what the twelve months ahead might hold I sense some trepidation. I know there will be successes to celebrate, friends and family to enjoy, and surprising journeys to delight in, but it’s the “what if’s” of failure, sickness, or losses that nag me.
However, God intends for us to walk in confidence, even when we don’t know what is around the corner, as a recent experience taught to me.
One afternoon over Christmas, while spending the holidays in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with my family, I decided to do some exploring with my teenage children beyond our usual haunts of the town and ski slopes.
We drove from our condo out of the town center and into a residential area. Neighborhoods lined either side of the street. The road began to climb steadily and soon we left behind any signs of habitation. The pavement turned to a snow-covered dirt road. Only a derelict barn and a disused mine shaft showed long abandoned human activity.
Just off the side of the road, we spotted a clearing and a handful of parked cars. This marked the location of the trailhead we were looking for, recommended by a local resident.
We parked our car and stepped out into the glare of a brilliant white winter landscape. Cold air stung exposed skin. Footsteps squeaked on the snow. At first it looked like freshly fallen snow from the day before would make the trail inaccessible, but cross-country skiing tracks showed a clearly visible path, fine for walking.
However, a sign at the entrance to the trail brought me to an abrupt halt. It read: Coyotes are active in this area. If attacked, fight back.
My teenagers laughed as I voiced my concern and so we proceeded on our way. But my imagination went into overdrive and gruesome scenarios played out in my mind. I pointed out paw prints in the snow. Were these from a coyote or a pet dog, I questioned?
Soon we were far from the safety of our car—alone in the silent white wood. Except, I had fear as my companion. It kept a cold grip on me.
Sometimes our fear is justified; when a real threat is present. Other times, our fear is groundless.
If I’d read the sign fully, I would have noticed it said: Coyotes in populated areas are less fearful of people. They have been known to attack pets and approach people too closely.
Not only was it highly unlikely we would see a coyote in the early afternoon, but it was even less likely to be aggressive towards us.
Irrational thoughts were spoiling the enjoyment of conversation, the laughter as snowballs flew through the air, and the warmth of being close to loved ones as I linked arms and walked with my sons and daughter.
And, if I had retreated to the safety of the car, I would have missed a delightful surprise just around the corner on the trail.
It is the same with the illogical ideas I have when I stand on the brink of a New Year. They can rob me of the delights God has in store for me.
Instead, God wants us to:
Enjoy the present and not worry about the future.
I love the practical advice the Bible gives us and how The Message puts it: Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34
At the end of each day, we want to go to sleep with the satisfaction of having been fully present and having lived the day well, making the most of every moment, while leaving the future up to God.
Look forward with confidence holding tight to his good promises
This is how God puts it: I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11 MSG).
As we begin a new year, we need to tell God we want to join in the good plans he has for our futures.
Dream and discover, and explore. Discover our dreams can come true.
Jesus said he would give us a better life than we ever dreamed of. (John 10:10 MSG)
Life doesn’t have to be a nightmare, it can be a beautiful reality. We need to bring our dreams for the year ahead to God, and believe with him they are going to be even better than we imagined.
As we turned the bend in the trail there in front of us stood a beautifully decorated tree filled with sparkling colored baubles. As we looked more closely, each bauble was lovingly inscribed with a name. We were delighted with our find.
What fear is stopping you from living today with hope and being bold about the year ahead?
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Linking up with Susan Mead at #DanceWithJesus Deb Wolf at #FaithandFriends, Kelly Balarie at #RaRaLinkup Jaime Wiebel at #SittingAmongFriends and Holley Gerth at #CoffeeForYourHeart
I like that idea, “If attacked, fight back!”, for a long time I didn’t know how, and when I did I was overwhelmed, if fear attacks, fight back, it’s a spirit we don’t have to put up with. As for being bold, I’m commenting here, stepping out into cyberspace.
This was perfect for me! I can easily let fear be my companion. In fact, I was scared just reading your post before my eyes ever settled on “coyotes”. Thanks for confirming I’m not alone in this. Happy New Year! Joining you from SusanBMead
Hi Rachel I am so glad that we have had a chance to get acquainted through posts. I just wanted you to know that I really enjoy you posts and want to nominate you for the Liebster Award. You can find the nomination here at the bottom of the post. http://youresewtrendy.blogspot.com/2016/01/what-honor-liebster-award.html
Jaime, thank you SO much. I am honored and excited. I have looked at the nomination and, now that things have settled down from Christmas and the New Year with family, I’ll be participating. Happy New Year.
What beautiful words – and pictures! Fear often paralyzes and keeps me from joy, too. I loved your story and could relate! This line will stick with me: “We need to bring our dreams for the year ahead to God, and believe with him they are going to be even better than we imagined.” Amen! Thanks for sharing this!
Thanks Karen – happy dreaming with God for 2016.
This was beautiful (amazing pictures) and it reminded me of my response to all the rattlesnake warning signs we encountered on our trip out west a few years ago. Wow. I just wanted to herd everyone back into the mini-van and forget the whole tourist thing. Really- Rattlesnakes so prevalent that there was a sign?? Thanks be to God that the Earth is His – and the fullness thereof. The world and those who dwell therein (even the snakes and the predatory canines!).
I’m wondering – did you go back to the minivan or did you continue on your adventure? And did you see any rattlesnakes? Perhaps you have your own story and an example/lesson right there! 🙂
I would have loved to find that tree around the bend, and what a great image for the glory that awaits if we follow God without giving in to fear!
Thanks Heather. We often forget about the beautiful glory that awaits us.
What a magical hike (at the end), but such valuable lessons in the beginning! It’s like our journey..when we keep moving through fear, we find many of God’s gifts! I really related to your post and thank you for your coyote lessons..I live in San Diego area..took a hike the other day and my husband warned me coyotes and bobcats frequent the area..not to forget to mention rattlesnakes..
I hiked alone and feared all of these! I wished I knew more about coyotes before then, and even more wish I just fully enjoyed the hike! Blessings! Love the message for the New Year! Visiting from #raralinkup today!
Thanks Kathy. Loved reading your comment. You’re right – so many of God’s gifts are waiting for us, we need to look out for his beautiful surprises on our journey.
What a beautiful post. The pictures are amazing, but it is your words this morning that are really touching to me. My son has a chronic illness and sometimes I can let fear overwhelm me. I find that it impacts my life more than I ever thought possible. Your words are valued and appreciated today. I really needed a reminder to have this kind of faith. Thank you.
Amanda, thank you for sharing your story. Your words and your strength have moved me. I believe God had the words of this post just for you. And I pray he will continue to meet you in special ways right when you need him.
I paused on the Message’s interpretation of Matthew 6:24 and then went back again at the end. That was a word for me today. I so get this scenario of the “what ifs” playing in your head. I’ve been working to silence them in my own. But maybe it’s not about silencing them; it’s about focusing fully on what God is doing right now. Thank you for pointing me back to this truth.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Christi, I love what God has shown you. Thank you for adding your valuable thoughts to the comments. It will encourage others, I am sure.
Your gorgeous photos brought back many fond memories of cross-country skiing in Montana :). I have certainly fallen prey to irrational/unreasonable fears. Last night I had a horrible scare–I discovered that my external hard drive, the one with my photo files (over 20,000), appeared to have crashed. Rather than become despondant, I prayed about it, went to bed and prayed about it again this morning before I tried plugging it in to a different port on my laptop. The drive worked this morning. The experience represents a new discipline in my life–to not freak out when things don’t go my way, but to instead submit my problems with my loving Father and wait before acting–in other words, to be constrained. The experience also worked as a wake up call to buy a back-up to my external drive as soon as possible!
This post resonated with me so much. Too often I “read into the sign my fears” and then don’t enjoy the moment.
Of I fear something, ie., my oral surgery, which essentially I allowed to dampen my holidays, only to come to the day of that oral surgery and it couldn’t have been easier!! I wasted all that time worrying for absolutely nothing.
I LOVE the Message’s version of Matthew 6:34. I am definitely going to write that one down!
Thanks so much for sharing and encouraging us to trust in the Lord in all things knowing that He redeems everything!
I’m so glad your oral surgery was easier than you expected. But, like you say, we spend so much time worrying and letting it spoil our enjoyment of the good things. We all have to learn to be more bold!
what a message I need to hear, like, every day. I would have been nervous as well, but that is awesome that you didn’t let your fear dictate your actions!
I think I sounded braver in my blog post than I actually felt in reality. But, once we’d seen the tree, everything was much better and my fear disappeared.