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I know a new year brings several emotions from excitement to exhaustion.  Many of which, depend on your 2013.  For some, 2013 was a year of increase:  larger wage, larger family, larger waist size (maybe that one should be on the next list).

For others, the opposite is true.  Some lost a job, lost a loved one, lost a house to fire or battled a disease, etc.  If you experienced the former, “Happy New Year” may be easy to shout out to the masses.  However, if you experienced a loss, “Happy New Year” seems very trite.

My 2013 had many joys.   My children experienced good health.  My husband’s job went well.  My family traveled and added many pages of good memories to our memory book.

However, we also experienced loss.  My father-in-law’s dementia progressed to the point that he needed to move into a memory care facility.  My youngest sister’s husband died suddenly, leaving her a widow at age 36.  A friend’s younger sister continued to battle a rare form of cancer.  Our neighbor lost their house to a kitchen fire.  I definitely like talking about the joys more than loss.

As I anticipate another year, it would be easy to dwell on the past one.  If I choose to think of the good, I would experience “happiness”.  On the other hand, if I remember the sad events, my demeanor would easily change to downcast.

Is it possible to have a “Happy” New Year in the midst of sadness?  No.  But it IS possible to have a “Joyous” New Year in spite of loss, because joy isn’t dependent on circumstance.

In fact, the Bible tells us in the book of James to, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NASB)(emphasis mine).  It doesn’t say, “Consider it all ‘happiness’.”

As we face more “perfecting” this year through various trials, remember: (for followers of Jesus)

1) God’s presence. God doesn’t always promise us a trouble-free life.  He does, however, promise to live it with us. I love that we just celebrated Christmas. Jesus came as “Immanuel”, God WITH us.

2) God’s perfect character. God is good and doesn’t change. Even when we suffer, God still loves us.

3) God’s perfect plan. He plans to grow our faith. Sometimes this means He stretches us in ways that aren’t comfortable. He uses trials to show us Himself.  And, HIS PLAN IS GOOD.

Does it mean it is easy to be joyous in hard situations? No. But, God makes it possible.

If you’ve never experienced God’s presence through a relationship with Jesus, you can hear more about the life-changing effect of the Gospel, by calling 1-800-Jesus-2020 or visit this website.

May 2014 be a year of spiritual growth:  remembering His character, trusting His plan, and enjoying His presence.  Have a “Joyous New Year”!