Updated: Jun 17, 2020
As we near the end of 2018 and prepare for what's ahead in the coming year, it is a good time to reflect on what Clint Eastwood might refer to as "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." A pastor with whom I used to partner used to say, "If it's not worth reviewing, it's not worth doing." Year-end evaluations are necessary to determine our strengths and weaknesses - what went well and what went wrong - in order to make a plan on how to move from merely surviving to a life that's thriving.
For my family, 2018 was a war zone. We seemed to get hit with bad news after bad news, all of which tried to deter our focus and tempt us to quit. I thank God though that He has put a steadfast spirit inside of us - through His grace - by which we do not easily wave a white flag of surrender. My son fought hard to finish high school despite being behind. I fought hard to publish my first book despite a demanding work schedule that nearly tanked the whole process. My wife continues to grind at her work as she makes intermittent changes to the growth and benefit of her organization.
We've had to fight hard for family time, fight hard to attain our goals, and fight even harder to remain close to the Lord throughout the process. If I were to encapsulate all of 2018, I would say it was marked by "war". We fought battles on many different fronts - emotional, mental, physical, financial, etc. Sometimes, we lost. Other times, we won. Regardless, we fought tooth and nail - and through what some people might call stubbornness - we are entering into 2019 with a great sense of victory.
As I was praying about the new year, the word that kept coming to me was "Shalom". It means more than peace. It means security, health, and prosperity. There is a wholeness that centers around the word shalom - wholeness in finances, wholeness in body and mind, wholeness in relationships.
When Solomon finished his diatribe on tensions in Ecclesiastes 3, he concluded with the two seasons that dictate every other season. No matter what we do, we will be warring, or we will be experiencing a reprieve from war - peace. Too much war and we become battle-hardened or bitter. Too much peace, we end up weak and unable to fight effectively. We must discern the appropriate response to every situation by asking ourselves, "Is this my battle to fight?"
If the battle is righteous, keep fighting until you win. Examples of righteous battles are: getting debt free, seeking reconciliation with people you wronged, living a healthier lifestyle, casting idols/addictions out of your life, or making peace with your past. These battles are difficult, but they are seasoned with God's grace, so your eventual victory is already determined.
If the battle is not righteous, you need to retreat as quickly as possible because your demise is coming. Examples of unrighteous battles are: sacrificing your life and family on the altar of entertainment, booking your schedule beyond reasonable demands, accumulating more debt to acquire more "stuff", pushing people away to gain more independence, or finding new ways to be release your double-standards on your bedrock of hypocrisy. If you have invested your efforts on any of these fronts, it's time to regroup if you want to save your life from destruction.
True peace only comes after we have won righteous wars. We experience security, health, and prosperity. And I for one am eagerly looking forward to reaping the rewards of a year spent in the trenches.