What’s in a year? In January I met 2022 for the first time. 2022 seemed somewhat uncertain of his character. He’d been delivered to us courtesy of his mother, 2021, and she wasn’t a very cheery character. She came with lockdowns and fear, would her son fair any better? 2022 told us he would bring us hope and a new start. He promised healing from a virus, healing for families torn apart and healing for our nation. Sadly 2022 wasn’t entirely honest and seems to have been somewhat deluding himself.

2022 has for many people, been an extremely hard year. It’s been filled with media-fuelled fears, financial difficulties and a time of enormous change for our nation.

All I can say is I’m grateful to know the One who holds each year. He’s the One who offers each year to us as a gift, an unwrapped present, full of hope. Some years bring instant gratification gifts, financial rewards, family joys or fulfilled achievements, but other years the gifts are harder to enjoy, their joy hidden beneath layers of pain.

Maybe you can relate? Maybe your year has been filled with pain? How can we find the gift buried beneath layers of disappointment, worry and stress? If we know the Giver of each day only gives good gifts to His children then how can we find the gifts that this past year has brought? I think the secret lies in the Giver.

Jesus loves us so much that He sometimes says no, He sometimes has a bigger miracle to do in us. When our circumstances aren’t changing despite our petitions, we can be sure that God has heard us and He is at work in the situation, changing us. Every pain and trouble can do one of two things, drive us to God, or to sin, to the sins of self-pity, anger and worry. The first response will give us peace in the storm and the second will steal it away.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities this year to choose my responses. Everyday trials have come my way and each time I was met with a choice. I’ve had 9 uncomfortable months of pregnancy and a birth which was challenging, teenagers with a barrage of emotions unloaded on me daily, endless housework and sibling squabbles. Today I have just felt rather lonely, missing friends whose children are unwell.

Each time I’ve met with those same two choices, to turn to God or to turn to sin. It’s a constant battle with Self. Self wants us to feel sorry for ourselves, to give way to fear or to anger. It’s an act of will, to turn our backs on Self and to turn to the One who has the answers. It’s an action we don’t face alone, the Holy Spirit is our Helper. All we have to do is turn and He’ll do the rest.

I’ve often made the wrong choice, chosen fear, self pity or resentment. I know what I should be doing, but in the words of Paul, ‘I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. Romans 7:15. It’s a good job God never gives up on us, He continually calls us to Himself. He uses our circumstances to draw us to Him.

We’ll be meeting 2023 soon, wrapped as an unknown gift, awaiting us. Will we find the gift enclosed? God asks us to ‘seek the LORD your God…you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.’ Deuteronomy 4:29.

I pray for us all that this Christmas we will find the ultimate gift. Amid the chaos and the crazy, may we take time to understand why we celebrate. Whatever Christmas and the new year holds for you, I pray you will turn to Jesus, the One who has all the answers.